Transcribed in April, 2021 with original punctuation and structure, this 1937 Hennepin County Review article includes lots of interesting details. Now you can browse or search the story in easy-to-read, mobile-friendly text.
Thanks to Jeanne Andersen at the St. Louis Park Historical Society for giving us this article.
Hennepin County Review | December 16, 1937
Splendid Highway Will be Opened Next Spring
Announcement that the Northwest’s first “cloverleaf“ highway grade separation, which carries Superior Boulevard over the new Belt Line highway just beyond the west city limits of Minneapolis, was opened to traffic November 26, has been followed with the news that the Belt Line road itself will be completed and opened to through traffic by early spring.
The huge intersection, one of the projects comprising the Belt Line highway, eventually will circle the Twin Cities and permit an unobstructed flow of traffic in the metropolitan area, and will enable traffic entering the area from any direction to find an open and safe radial route directly to any section of Minneapolis, St. Paul, or South St. Paul.
The Superior Boulevard “cloverleaf” has been constructed under the supervision of the state highway department with the WPA doing the grading, using a high percentage of hand labor, and matched federal aid highway funds totaling $65,000 to erect the concrete and steel “overhead“ bridge which carries trunk highway 12 (Superior Boulevard) over trunk highway 100 (the Belt Line).
The highway department will build a divided two-lane highway of 24-foot wide lanes from the “cloverleaf” to the Minneapolis city limits and from the west end of the junction for about a mile to a point just beyond the Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern railway tracks. Work has begun on the latter section.
Constructed for Safety
The “cloverleaf” is so constructed that each entrance to highway 12 or highway 100 is made on a gradual basis, and an additional safety feature is the fact that the design eliminates all left turns, left turns being made from one highway to the other by circling to the right.
The junction is the first of its kind in the northwest and is a forerunner for that type of highway grade separations which will be built in the Twin Cities area and on other heavily trafficked intersections in Minnesota as funds become available, State Highway Commissioner N. W. Elsberg said.
Records show that where such type junctions have been built in the east, the accident rate has been cut sharply. The commissioner said the Superior Boulevard “cloverleaf” typifies the type of road construction Minnesota will follow in the future in its program for highways which will safely and adequately carry the fast moving and exceptionally heavy traffic which is characteristic of this day on many highways and which will increase in the future.
A $3,000,000 Road
The new $3,000,000 “Belt Line”, 6.7 miles long and intersecting nine east-west roads leading to Minneapolis, is nearing completion west of Minneapolis. Work on the splendid thorough fare will be finished in another month, but not until next spring will it be possible to finish the last elevation of No. 7 at St. Louis Park and complete the underpass at Minnetonka Boulevard. Then the magnificent highway will be complete from Thirty-sixth Avenue north to Excelsior Boulevard.
Joining with highway No. 100 at the south and the old Jefferson highway at the north, it will drain Minneapolis traffic from many points in the city and permit incoming traffic to find an open and safe radial route directly to any section of Minneapolis, St. Paul, or south St. Paul.
Altogether, there will be three cloverleaf structures on the north-south stretch of the line, the one opened last month, the one at highway No. 7 to be completed next spring when state and federal funds are available and the one near the north end of the line, now laid out but waiting the development of the area. This last leaf will perhaps not be built for several years.
In Making Four Years
Four years in the making, the new highway when completed will be one of the largest projects undertaken by the state with matched federal funds and the aid of WPA.
Three Agencies Were Builders
Work on the belt line has been carried on under the direction of three agencies since it’s conception in November, 1933.
Originally started by the CWA and sponsored by the Hennepin county commissioners, the highway was to extend from Thirty-sixth avenue north as far south as Glenwood. Work was abandoned in March, 1934, and nothing more done until September of that year when the state took it over, widened the roadway to 60 feet and provided for service roads, one on each side. It was decided then to continue the line through to Excelsior boulevard and join with highway No. 100.
When the SERA took over the work, there was no sponsor until January, 1935, when the state highway department allotted funds for the erection of structures, surveying, and finishing the roadway after ground work was completed.
WPA Project Since ’35
Until 1935 when the work was taken over by the WPA with the sponsorship of the State highway department, from matched federal funds, the SERA expended $453,847.93 and the state share, expended through the highway department, was $161,630.24.
From October, 1935 to November 1, this year, the WPA has spent $1,467,283.11 and the state $891,381.45 on the highway.
Expenditures to date are $2,974,142.73 not including the cost of the work done by CWA in 1933 when the Belt Line was conceived and started.
In all probability more monies will be expanded before the road is complete, three separate applications having been sent to Washington within the last month for additional funds to complete structures at highway No. 7 and the Minnetonka Boulevard.
The states contributions include bridges at Bassets Creek, near Robbinsdale; the Minnesota Western bridge, Golden Valley; a culvert bridge this side of the Minnesota, Northfield and Southern railroad track crossing semi, the Superior Boulevard elevation and cloverleaf; the great northern bridge in St. Louis Park and the combined Milwaukee railroad and Minneapolis and St. Louis railroad bridge in St. Louis Park.
Additional bridges to be built by the state with the aid of WPA labor are the highway No. 7 elevation and clover leaf and the Minnetonka boulevard underpass.
Construction is under the supervision of the state highway department with the WPA doing the grading, beautification, and hauling, using a high percentage of hand labor.
Average 1,000 Men
Average man strength on the project is close to 1,000 men and at times has reached a peak of 1,800. Laborers are paid $60.50 per month, intermediaries (pipelayers etc.) receive $71.50 and the skilled help (stonemasons and carpenters) receive $93.50.
The WPA has its own workshops, blacksmith shops, tool houses and repair shops on the job. Wood to heat these buildings is secured from timber salvaged from condemned property along the route of the Belt Line.
The state is now furnishing the WPA with two steam shovels, a road leveler, and a large hydraulic grader. The WPA, in addition to the thousand men, is furnishing 52 trucks and six teams.
The huge work has swallowed up more than 20,000 lineal feet of concrete and corrugated metal piping, 2000 cubic yards of riffraffing under the bridges and for drainage and 200,000 square yards of sod for beautification of the right-of-way. It is expected that more than 300 catch basins and man holes will have been built when the road is complete. The highway department will spend more than $100,000 oiling and blacktopping the highway.
Swamp swallows truck
Biggest job of the entire project was the filling in of “Hell’s Swamp” located north of Superior boulevard. Working on this one stretch alone for more than six months, workers hauled a hill from the north to form the new road bed. One hundred and fifty cubic yards of dirt was dumped into soft peat land, at some points more than 57 feet deep. During the work a truck was actually “lost” when it sank in 27 feet of boggy swamp land. Only with aid of a steam shovel and several trucks was it extricated.
To prevent erosion, strips of sod are placed every five feet along the slopes of the belt line. In addition WPA has planted more than 3,000 lilac bushes, 1,000 elm trees, 1,000 coral-berries, 3,000 spirea, 500 blue Spruce trees, 300 ash, more than 50,000 sumac and 200 poplar trees. All trees and shrubbery were furnished by the state of Minnesota.
Stone work built
Beautification of the right-of-way includes the building of stone hedges on top of slopes to provide parking spots for motorists, construction of stone camp tables, fireplaces and seats. Three Boy Scout “rings” — low circular rock hedges 22 feet in diameter inside which the troop can gather and sit around the stone campfire— have been built.
When finished the landscaping will make the belt line one of the most scenic routes in the northwest, with parks, hedges, stone walks, gardens and trees all along the route from Thirty-sixth avenue north as far south as Excelsior boulevard.
After work is finished on the main belt line January 1, it is expected to transfer the entire WPA crew to the two-mile Superior boulevard stretch from the Turner cross road to the fox farm near Louisiana Avenue. Application for federal funds to take the S from this highway were sent to Washington a month ago. Approval is expected the latter part of December.