Normandale Blvd (CSAH 34) Reconstruction Project FAQs

I heard no property assessment were part of this project. Is that true?

Correct, property assessments are not included as part of the funding for the project. The project is funded through federal aid, city and county funds.

Will this raise or lower property values?

Residential property values are affected by many variables. Because Normandale Boulevard is - and always has been an arterial roadway, any diminished value to adjacent properties because of the roadway would have been reflected in the purchase price paid by past and current home owners. The Bloomington Assessor's Office already accounts for negative influence in value for the properties that are adjacent to arterial streets.

The project will improve walkability and access to trails, and this usually increases property values. However, widening the road for the safety improvements could place it a bit closer to some properties than it is now, which might adversely affect values. Since this project has both types of impacts it is not possible to accurately predict its effect on values. Hopefully these factors offset one another, but the market will be the ultimate determiner.

I live along Normandale. What is the process for the right-of-way acquisition? When will I know something?

Hennepin County is leading the right-of-way acquisition process for the project. Once design is far enough along to confirm which properties will be affected, those owners will be contacted by a Hennepin County Land Acquisition Agent. That is currently envisioned for January 2015. The Agent will be responsible for guiding the property owner through the process. We will be spending most of 2015 working with property owners on Normandale to appraise properties and negotiate settlements. Our goal is to have all the land needed for the road project by mid-October 2015.

Hennepin County brochure - Acquisition Information for Property Owners

There is more traffic today than in the past. If you do this project, the road will just get busier.

The historical traffic volumes show a consistent range between 24,000 and 30,000 vehicles/day over the last 35 years with a peak occurring in the early 1980s and again in the late 1990s/early 2000s. The current volume is in between those two limits at 28,000 vehicles/day. The project is not intended to increase capacity of the road, only improve the safety. 

Chart showing historical traffic data

Normandale Blvd S of W 84th St Historical AADT

Why doesn't the City just lower the speed limit?

n the State of Minnesota, the Commissioner of Transportation is responsible for establishing speed limits, so neither the City of Bloomington nor Hennepin County can change the speed limit on Normandale Boulevard. However, the local road authority can pass a resolution requesting an investigation by MnDOT. Based upon the results, MnDOT may then authorize the local road authority to post new speed limits. However, there is no guarantee that MNDOT would recommend the road for a speed limit reduction.

For more about how MNDOT establishes speed limits, visit the following webpage:

Speed Limits in Minnesota

Included are the most common questions and answers from the MNDOT webpage:

Will lowering the speed limit reduce speeds?
No. Studies show that there is little change in the speed pattern after the posting of a speed limit. The driver is much more influenced by the roadway conditions.

Will lowering the speed limit reduce crash frequency?
No. Although lowering the speed limit is often seen as a cure-all in preventing crashes, this is not the case. Crashes are most often the result of driver inattention and driver error. However, if a posted speed limit is unrealistically low, it creates a greater speed variance (i.e. some drivers follow the speed limit while most drive at a speed above the limit that feels comfortable to them given the surrounding environment). This speed variance can contribute to crashes.

Why do we even have speed limits? 
A uniform speed of vehicles in a traffic flow results in the safest operation. The posted speed limits can keep the traffic flowing smoothly provided the majority of drivers find the speed limits reasonable. To best do this, the limits must be consistent throughout the state. The speed limits also give the motorist an idea of a reasonable speed to drive in an unfamiliar location. The speed limits are used by police officials to identify excessive speeds and curb unreasonable behavior.

You do not need to build a road; more police enforcement would solve the problem!

Traffic Safety involves Engineering, Education and Enforcement. Enforcement alone is rarely successful in having the desired impact on enhancing roadway safety and eliminating crashes. That being said, the police department will continue conducting enforcement details and providing a police presence to increase driver awareness and observance of traffic laws.

Can you traffic calm the road like Poplar Bridge Road, with only two lanes plus turn lanes?

Normandale Boulevard carries about 28,000 cars per day, and a single lane in each direction would not provide adequate capacity.

Poplar Bridge Road, west of Normandale Boulevard, is a collector street that carries between 5,000 and 7,000 vehicles per day and has adequate capacity with the 3-lane cross section. Normandale Boulevard is an arterial roadway whose purpose is to safely and efficiently carry cars from the high volume regional roadways (freeways) to lower volume collector and neighborhood streets. Attempting to artificially restrict the capacity of Normandale Boulevard by inducing delay or reducing the number of lanes would simply move the thousands of vehicles that use it every day onto other roadways, including local and neighborhood streets that were never designed to carry large volumes of traffic.

Can semi-trucks be banned from the roadway?

No, the road is classified as a county state-aid highway. This designation is used across the state and provides a network of roadways to efficiently move both people and goods. Semi-trucks need to be allowed to use the roadway as part of broader road network.

Can you add a traffic signal or stop signs on Normandale to slow traffic or improve safety?

There are currently 145 traffic signals in the City of Bloomington. Intersections must meet specific criteria, or "warrants" to qualify for the installation of a traffic signal, including traffic volumes, side street driver delay, and other specific criteria. Experience has shown that adding a signal where such warrants are not met can actually increase some types of crashes, and is not a beneficial use of public funds.

Likewise, stop signs also have specific criteria for proper use, and deploying them without meeting those criteria would do more harm than good. On arterials like Normandale Boulevard the noise, increased delay and environmental degradation caused by stop signs on the main line would be significant.

Why are you considering restricting side street access?

Staff is considering eliminating left turns from the side street onto Normandale Boulevard from two streets, based on 1) accident history and 2) Hennepin County Access Policy.

Crash history reveals some right-angle accidents at intersections, which typically occur when a driver attempting to either cross or make a left turn onto Normandale from a side street. A countermeasure for these types of crashes is to simply restrict the through and left turn movement by adding a raised center median. Right turns onto the local street from Normandale Boulevard would still be permitted, as well as right turns off of Normandale to the local street. However, drivers wishing to make a left turn from the neighborhood street would need to drive to another nearby intersection, or make a right onto Normandale and then do a U-turn at the next signal.
The benefits of access management include improved movement of traffic, reduced crashes, and fewer vehicle conflicts. Access management principles are applicable to roadways of all types, ranging from fully access-controlled facilities, such as freeways, to those with little or no access control, such as local streets. The Hennepin County roadway falls in between these two extremes. Hennepin County access guidelines request a minimum of 1/8 mile (660 feet) between local public streets or other private driveways when there is a median and 1/4 mile (1320 feet) when the road is undivided.

Hennepin County access policy diagram

Normandale Blvd existing access

Will the left turn restriction at Toledo remain in place?

The turn restrictions currently in place are "statutory" type restriction using just turn prohibition signs, and restrict turns in the morning and evening rush hour. These were added because of crash incidents that occurred at the intersections sometime in the distant past. The intension of the safety improvement project is to move the left turning vehicles out of the through traffic lanes alleviating the potential for crashes. With this improvement the statutory turn restriction would be removed and left turns could be made regardless of the time of day.

Will there be a southbound no U-turn imposed at the Normandale / Toledo intersection? I foresee that people from the West side of Normandale Blvd will go south and take the first U-turn which would be an uncontrolled intersection instead of going to the Poplar Bridge lights.

At this time we do not anticipate the need to install a U-turn restriction at Normandale /Toledo intersection. With the protected left turn bay and two northbound lanes, a U-turn should not pose a safety problem, provided drivers exercise ordinary caution. However, we will monitor the area once construction is completed and if a safety problem develops, options including a statutory restriction will be evaluated by the City and Hennepin County.

The estimated traffic flows per intersection are rounded to 100's yet are supposed to represent averages. What are the real averages per intersection?

The annual average daily traffic flows that are shown for the roadways are collected, factored and presented according to the standardized method for measuring and reporting traffic volumes in the state of Minnesota. It is done this way to accommodate for fluctuations in traffic flows based on time of year (school in or out), weather conditions, etc. and to allow us to reasonably compare a volume count completed in July to a count completed in November.

For further reading, visit the MNDOT Traffic webpage at:

Traffic Forecasting & Analysis

With a potential protected left turn bay from southbound Normandale onto Toledo, there will be an increase in traffic flow, particularly during rush hour. What are the estimated increases for this?

We do not have a way to estimate the moves that may happen after the turn restriction is removed and neighborhood access is allowed. However, the project design will include improvements to the signalized intersection at W 94th Street and Normandale Boulevard (increased left turn bay length, signal timing modifications, etc.) to encourage drivers to stay on the collector and arterial street network.

What details do you have for the crashes that this project is addressing?

This report is a summary of crashes within the project limits from 2004 to 2014.

Normandale Blvd Crash History 

Is it really necessary to have two trails with the project?

Staff is continuing to try and gather feedback from residents to help decide the final sidewalk/path configuration for the roadway, and will be working to find the best way to accommodate the needs of non-motorized traffic in the area, including connections to popular cycling corridors like 94th Street/Poplar Bridge Road, and attractive recreation destinations including Normandale Lake and the surrounding trails.

Does the trail have to be on both sides? If not on both sides how would people on the opposite side of the street access the path?

The traffic volume along Normandale Boulevard creates an impediment to people safely crossing the street to access a trail on the other side of the roadway, so a trail on one side only does not provide good accommodation for users. Because of the distance between a signalized crossing and the underpass at Nine-Mile Creek (which is seasonally flooded) staff believe that a wide and well-designed trail on both sides of the road is the best accommodation for non-motorized users in the immediate area, as well as the community as a whole.

Can the trail be narrower?

The existing trail/sidewalk does not meet current standards. Chapter 5 of the Minnesota Bikeway Facility Design Manual recommends that a shared use path of this type be 8-10 feet wide. Similarly the manual requires a minimum of 5' from the curb to the trail is required with a desired separation of 10 feet increasing to 18 feet where snow is stored in this area. Staff is aware of the concerns and desires for it to be narrow as possible and has proposed the boulevard at 6 feet wide, slightly above the minimum, since it also provides adequate clear area for the traffic signs that will need to be installed along the boulevard.

How were the numbers for the existing path widths and grass areas calculated? i.e. measure from the curb to the bike path to get the grass width? Measure the path width to achieve the width of the path?

The boulevard width (grass area) is measured from the face of the curb (the vertical portion of the curb at the street) to the existing path. The existing path is then measured from edge to edge of the path. Due to the deteriorating condition of the edges of the path, the width of the existing path may vary slightly along the corridor.

What is the impact on the wetland?

There will be some impact on the wetland. Until a final design is developed specifics cannot be provided. Typically wetland impacts are replaced at a 2:1 or 2.5:1 ratio depending on the nature of the impact. Staff thinks this project will qualify to have both state and city required replacements. The project may also need to do some floodplain mitigation for the project once details are known.

Wetland Delineation Report for Normandale Boulevard

We are concerned about the increase in noise and would like a noise barrier.

In 1972, the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring mitigation for highway noise (considered an environmental impact) at impacted locations where it was found to be reasonable and feasible as a part of all Type I Federal Aid projects. This project does not qualify as a Type 1 project since it is neither a highway nor is the auxiliary lane that is added for the project a through lane as it is a turn lane. At this time there is no plan to include a noise wall with the project. Another issue is that noise barriers are not typically placed along roads that have uncontrolled access points due to the loss of effectiveness from numerous openings in the barriers.

Staff does plan on recommending the use of a solid stockade or board on board type fence, in compliance with the City ordinances regarding fences, in places of the residential locations with fencing currently located along the project corridor. This type of fence has the benefit of being more solid and can block or deflect some of the noise. Some of the retaining walls that are being proposed will also help elevate the fence in some areas, further assisting with noise reduction.

How MNDOT establishes the need for noise barriers

Included are the most common questions and answers from the MNDOT webpage:

How effective are noise barriers?
Generally the effectiveness of a noise barrier depends on (1) the distance between the listener and the noise source, (2) the distance between the listener and the noise barrier and (3) the height of the noise barrier above the line-of-sight between the listener and the noise source. Typically, the benefit due to the noise reduction by a noise barrier will be greatest for the listeners nearest the noise barrier. For residences located directly behind a 20 foot noise barrier, a reduction of about 10 dBA would be typical. This benefit decreases as the listener moves farther away from the barrier and is barely perceptible at distances greater than 300 feet.

Why not plant trees instead of putting up a barrier?
When highway noise mitigation strategies were first being researched there was some thought that dense plantings of vegetation might provide effective blocking of sounds from the highway. However, to be effective at blocking sound there must be complete blockage of the line of sight from the receiver to all noise sources and a great enough mass density to stop the transmission of sound. If the height of the trees extends at least 15 feet above the line of sight, and the vegetation has a depth of 100 feet, then a 5 dBA attenuation is allowed. Most vegetative plantings near highways have not been found to meet these prerequisites.

Can the utility lines be buried with the project?

At this time there are no plans for undergrounding the utility lines along the project corridor. An option that could be pursued by City Council either with the project or separately, is to work with Xcel to develop a tariff that would be a surcharge on all the City rate payers to pay for the undergrounding of the lines.

The 3 plans are virtually the same with minor adjustments. Why so little creativity/options?

The proposed project is a safety improvement project that is also striving to enhance the accommodations for pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized transportation modes along the corridor. Staff is attempting to limit the widening and land acquisition, while accommodating the safety needs for the corridor. In order to meet current design standards and width requirements for this corridor, options for those widths are limited. Therefore, the design is using the allowed widths to maneuver through the corridor while minimizing impact to adjacent property.

Why weren't residents south of Poplar Bridge notified of this Project so their concerns could be heard as well?

The property owners that access neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed construction corridor were included in the initial mailing notifications. All neighborhood informational meeting notices are also posted on the City of Bloomington website so that any other interested parties that are not directly affected by the proposed construction can attend.