Inver Grove Heights council orders new road project

The red line represents where the construction would be done in the neighborhood.

The Inver Grove Heights council chamber was standing room only Jan. 23, with several residents voicing opinions regarding a road project that they had hoped would be a simple asphalt overlay, but instead evolved into a complete reconstruction.

Thomas Kaldunski, city engineer, said the meeting was held to consider a project in the Bancroft Way neighborhood for the 2017 construction season. 

The streets in question were Bancroft Way, and segments of Baldwin and Barbara avenues. 

Kaldunski explained the city received a petition in July 2015 from some residents asking the city to consider a mill and overlay for the area because their streets were in rough shape.

The council ordered a feasibility study in 2016. Kaldunski noted the original streets in the neighborhood were built in 1994 and had a sealcoat applied in 1999.

After listening the Kaldunski’s report and homeowners’ comments, the council unanimously instructed to have city staff prepare the final cost projections and assessment estimates for the improvements.


What’s recommended?

Kaldunski said a geotechnical report recommended reconstruction, explaining it was the best long-term solution due to a bad subgrade of the current streets. 

“The underlying soil is highly susceptible to frost and heaving, which is why the road is deteriorating as quickly as it has,” Kaldunski said. A new sub-base underneath would hold the traffic loads the roads carry. 

It also was recommended to have 36-foot-wide streets that have parking on both sides. This would be a foot narrower than the current roadway.

Staff also recommended barrier curbs for maintenance, storm water conveyance and smoother driveway entrances. 

A cul-de-sac will be constructed on Barbara Avenue.

There would be drainage improvements as well, including storm sewer structures that need replacement, and a recommended storm sewer pipe bypass along Babcock Trail.

Things like landscaping, irrigation and invisible fences that are obstructions in right-of-way will be the property owners’ responsibility.

Overall, the estimated project cost is $2.17 million, with 30 percent of the cost — roughly $650,000 — covered in assessments to property owners along the streets. About $1.5 million will come from the city’s pavement management program.

Council member Paul Hark asked about the cost difference for the project if concrete was installed.

Kaldunski said most cities do not use concrete paving for local streets.

“I’ve been an engineer for 40 years. I’ve built two, so it’s not a common thing in the municipal field,” Kaldunski said. 

He said concrete paving is 10 to 25 percent more expensive than asphalt. Maintenance costs for concrete are also higher.

The project was looked at for a mill and overlay, which is what the residents’ petition requested. Kaldunski said the geotechnical report did not recommend this due to the soil issues under the roadway.

Because the city received a petition from homeowners requesting road upgrades, Mayor George Tourville said some people have asked if the council is obligated to do the project.

“The answer is no,” Tourville replied. “It is petitioned. We take a look at the information, and we make a decision by getting the information whether it’s a good project or not.”

Council member Tom Bartholomew asked where the project was on the city’s cycle if there had not been a petition. 

Kaldunski said these streets have been under review, but he was unsure how far out the project was. He said it was most likely part of the next five-year package of street projects. 


Residents voice opinions

Ted Trenzeluk lives in the project area. He said he’s generally in favor of improvements because “the road’s a mess.” 

Trenzeluk contended that the original construction company “screwed up the road,” which is why it has to be completely redone. Trenzeluk asked the council members to keep the initial shoddy work in mind when they consider the assessments, because it was not the homeowners’ fault that the road needed to be replaced so soon.

Harlan Christensen said many in the area are under the impression the current curbs do not need to be replaced. He favored the cheaper mill and overlay option, and saw no reason to replace the curbs. He said he was opposed to the city’s proposal to redo the road completely, including the base soil.

During the public hearing Jan. 10, resident Peter Forrest posed the question: “If not now, when?” He said he thought he heard staff say it could 20 to 30 years before the road is replaced. 

Kaldunski said the roads in this area have been marked as poor, and are always under consideration.

But he conceded that if the reconstruction project is not done now, it could possibly go to the bottom of the list. 

Tourville said it would go back into the pile of street projects, but it doesn’t mean it would take 20 years to get to it.

Even though it wasn’t an assessment hearing, several homeowners commented about the proposed assessments being too high.

Richard Briguet wondered where city engineers were when the street was installed incorrectly the first time. 

Kaldunski responded these streets were done to industry standards at the time. He added that developers did a lot of inspections back in the 1990s. 

Briguet asked who was responsible for the street project not being done properly back in the ‘90s.

“Where was the city to say ‘wait a minute,’” Briguet asked, adding that he understands the roads in his neighborhood need to be replaced. 


Council discusses merits

Tourville said that when considering a total or partial reconstruction, he looks at other neighborhoods. He said it seems curbs often come up as adding to the costs, and in some cases only partial curb replacement is needed.

But in this neighborhood, the base under the curbs is the same as that under the roadway, so issues may arise if they aren’t all replaced. If the curbs don’t get fixed and they deteriorate in the future, Tourville predicted the city will be asked why they weren’t taken care of back in 2017, which is why he favored full reconstruction. 

When it comes to the homeowners’ assessments, Tourville said they had to cover 20 percent of the project in order for the project to be done. 

Council member Rosemary Piekarski Krech, said she tends to vote for what the people want. She said it was a petition project so if a portion of the people want to go forward with it, she would say yes. 

“I’m not quite seeing that because of the cost,” Piekarski Krech said, adding that she wants to see what the final costs. If there are too many people at that point against it, her vote would be no.

Hark agreed with Piekarski Krech. He said he didn’t want homeowners leaving with false expectations that assessments are going to be half of what they are in the end. He said there’s no harm in going forward because the council can put a stop to the project at the next hearing when they have hard numbers.  

The council also approved a resolution to prepare the plans and specifications for the project. The final motion also authorized the city attorney, engineering consultant and staff to complete easement or right-of-way acquisition negotiations. 

Tourville abstained from the last motion due to a potential conflict of interest. 


Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or


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