The countdown has begun.
After years of having only three routes from Highway 3 westbound through Farmington -- four if you count 170th Street in Lakeville -- the weeks are ticking by until a fourth route is ready to open. The extension of 195th Street from Akin Road eastbound to Highway 3 is nearing completion.
Farmington city engineer Kevin Schorzman says the whole project is right on schedule, maybe even a little ahead. By early November, the new bridge should be open for traffic.
Right now, the section of the new road nearest Highway 3 -- dubbed 190th Street -- is still gravel, and open only to construction vehicles and dump trucks carrying more gravel for the project. But Schorzman makes periodic stops out along the route to check on the progress. And so far, he said, progress is good.
"It's been relatively uneventful as far as a project goes," Schorzman said. "I suspect it will be done on or even ahead of schedule."
The main component of the project is the 600-foot bridge that passes over a section of wetland and, more importantly, the railroad tracks that run north and south through the city. Once the road is open, it will be the only one where drivers will not be stopped when trains are crossing. The bridge clears the tracks by 23 1/2 feet.
It is actually wide enough for two-lane traffic. A third lane -- a pedestrian walkway -- is separated from the future traffic by a low concrete wall. As part of that walkway, a small deck was built in as a spot for a scenic overlook, so anyone using the bridge can stop and look over the creek and natural areas below.
For the most part, Schorzman said, the bridge is completed, but there are minor additions still to come. It needs to be painted. Lights along the north side of the bridge have to be installed. Heavy railings are also going to be installed on the north side of the walking path.
On the west side of the bridge is a trail that will connect to part of the city's trail system in Mystic Meadows. But part of that trail winds down the hill and passes under the bridge where trail users can see the six arches that support the bridge.
Citing what he calls "Cliff Clavin stuff" about the bridge, Schorzman says the spans between each arch range from 75 to 110 feet. From the roundabout on Highway 3 to the existing part of 195th Street, the project covers 1.2 miles.
Construction of the bridge began last August, about the same time construction of the roundabout started.
The total project cost is $8.4 million, which covers construction of the bridge and the road extension from 195th Street eastbound to Highway 3. Construction of the bridge cost $3.5 million. The city of Farmington will receive $4.2 million from Dakota County, since the route will extend 195th Street, which is also County Road 64.
Because the road curves, the street names adjust from 195th Street to 190th Street nearer to Highway 3.