Founded in 1852, Chaska has a historic downtown with many 19th century structures remaining. Today, it is an active and evolving economic center and regional attraction home to more than 175 businesses. Highway 41 bisects Downtown Chaska, providing local access and circulation as well as connections to the greater Twin Cities metro area. Highway 41 also serves as one of the four Minnesota River crossings in the southwestern metro area.
The highway’s existing four-lane divided roadway with parking on the northbound lanes leaves little room for sidewalks, which makes downtown uninviting to non-motorized travel. Highway 41 does not have left turn lanes at intersections within downtown. The lack of left turn lanes creates major disruptions to the main roadway, causing cars to weave over a lane to avoid getting stuck behind turning vehicles. Safety, pedestrians, parking, speed, environment, access, and mobility are among the numerous concerns by the businesses, property owners, and public.
Identifying Potential Improvements
During a 2015-2017 study, Carver County, MnDOT, and the City of Chaska worked together to identify transportation system improvements on Highway 41 and Highway 61 (Chaska Boulevard). The purpose of the study was to identify and prioritize road improvements to address existing issues, prepare for future growth, and utilize existing funding. Study goals are shown below.
The study resulted in an implementation plan that outlined a strategy to implement improvement projects over time. Multiple projects were identified in Downtown Chaska. One of those projects, the Chaska Boulevard Bridge and Roadway Improvements Project, was completed in spring of 2018.
Goals of the Study
Preserve and enrich the ambience of historic Downtown Chaska
It is important to maintain the historic, traditional, small-town atmosphere and character of Downtown Chaska. This means the general public should be able to easily access downtown by car, bicycle, bus, or foot; park in close proximity to downtown destinations; and feel welcome spending time in downtown.
Provide a comprehensive network for non-motorized transportation
People desire to walk and bike within and through Downtown. Improvements on Highway 41 and Chaska Boulevard should provide adequate space for walkers and bikers to allow them to move efficiently, feel safe and welcome, and be able to cross both highways at multiple locations.
Safely accommodate all users
Safely accommodating all users (vehicles, heavy trucks, pedestrians, bicyclists, and buses) is a high priority. This means minimizing surprises to drivers, providing space for all users, and enhancing opportunities to cross both highways safely.
Provide efficient and reliable vehicle mobility
It is important that both Highway 41 and Chaska Boulevard continue to function efficiently, allowing users to access and move through Downtown Chaska. The region is expected to see continued growth into the future. The highways that exist today will need to accommodate the anticipated growth.
Provide infrastructure improvements compatible with the natural and human environment
Downtown Chaska is a unique destination with multiple historic buildings, a historic district, and numerous businesses. Preservation of historic resources, along with minimizing impacts to the natural and built environment, is a high priority to all agencies.
Develop a financially responsible implementation plan
Cost is a significant factor for the City of Chaska, Carver County, and MnDOT. Investments must utilize funds in a reasonable and responsible manner. Improvement recommendations need to be affordable and packaged to leverage competitive state and federal funding sources.
The Downtown Highway 41 Project
We are now moving forward with one of the projects identified in the study – the Downtown Highway 41 Project. Project partners assembled a funding package for this project between 2018-2020. With funding secured, we are now in the final design phase of the project, which will last through spring 2022. Construction of the project is tentatively scheduled to occur in two phases in summer-fall 2022 and spring-fall 2023. Which portions of the project will be constructed when is under consideration and will be determined later this year.
2015-2017: Planning Study
2018-2020: Project Funding
2021-2022: Project Design
2022-2023: Construction (tentative)
Scroll though the images below to view a detailed timeline (past, present and future) of the Downtown Highway 41 Project.
Full timeline shown below. Click for larger view.