Famous Wayzata Road Gets a Facelift

A group of citizens and the City of Wayzata work to preserve the history of Bushaway Road.
The old railway bridge on Bushaway Road in Wayzata before any renovations on the iconic street again.

Highway 101, or Bushaway Road, as many locals know it, is one of the oldest stretches of road in the state. Its early days can be traced back to the Dakota Indian tribe, who used it as a fur-trapping trail from Shakopee to Dayton. Later, when settlers moved into the area, they also used the road to get to Wayzata.

After years of back and forth between the City of Wayzata, Hennepin County and neighborhood groups, the iconic roadway that helped found Wayzata is finally undergoing restoration. It's a project 30 years in the making and it holds a special place in local residents’ hearts.

“It’s special for the historic value,” says Ron Anderson. Anderson is a longtime resident of the area and helped lead the neighborhood group when discussions for redoing Highway 101 began. “Some of the homes in this area are very special architecturally.”

The road restoration project began in earnest about 10 years ago and then in 2007, Hennepin County became serious about making changes, and brought a plan to the City of Wayzata.

To make sure it had the city and its residents’ best interests in mind, Wayzata formed a task force of city council members, the planning commissioner and neighborhood representatives. The original plan was for the county to put in a four-lane highway, but that was unacceptable to the people of Wayzata. “They were going to take out the historic gates, roads, and fences and make it look like nothing but concrete,” Anderson says.

A neighborhood initiative, which led to the development of a  task force, raised money for research to prove the area’s historical value. They hired an arborist to evaluate the trees along the road and they spoke with engineers to make sure the final product was an acceptable resolution. They finally reached an agreement in January 2014, and began construction on the project that September, with the project completion goal between 2016 and 2017.

The final product is a compromise in the truest sense. Instead of a four-lane highway with a median, the road will be just two lanes. Instead of chopping down 800 trees, they will only remove 200. And the historic elements the residents wanted will remain.

“You just take it one issue at a time and come to an understanding,” says Jack Amdal, former city council member who was part of the task force and a resident of the Bushaway area.

Amdal joined the task force shortly after it formed in 2007, when plans for a new road began being seriously discussed. He became the chair of the group when its original chair was diagnosed with cancer. Amdal has seen the plan morph from its original stage as a giant highway, to the final plan that is a more environmentally friendly, two-lane road.

“It was just an impasse because Hennepin County wanted a more efficient road,” Amdal says. The compromise meant putting in more retaining walls than residents wanted and adding turn lanes. Residents still worry about the overall impact and the disruption of construction, but most of them ended up happy according to Anderson and Amdal.

To help make the plan more palatable, and maintain the natural landscape, Wayzata and Hennepin County brought in The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD). The MCWD will oversee the shoreline, using plants and bioengineering to stabilize the shoreline and prevent erosion.

As part of the project, local filmmaker Steve Doyle was brought in to create a documentary. His goal is to capture images before, after and during construction; highlight the ways city, county and neighborhood groups worked together; and showcase the history of Bushaway Road.

By March 2015, Doyle had already done much of the preliminary filming, and he now hopes to have the first part of his documentary done by the end of 2015. Says Doyle, “It’s the story of a neighborhood group that refused to be beaten down by entities that were used to getting their way.”

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Check online to learn more about the project and stay up-to-date on its progress.