Heated Sidewalk Trend Arrives at Mpls. Light Rail Stop

Updated: 03/04/2014 6:42 PM KSTP.com By: Kate Renner

An expensive trend means business for Apple Valley-based Uponor. From New York City to Nicollet Mall, businesses are looking at installing heated sidewalks.

The Interchange Plaza connecting the blue and green light rail lines will open in April. If the snow isn't gone by then, there is underground tubing with scalding hot water running through it, that's designed to melt snow.

The same system is used at the Minnesota Zoo, where it doesn't have to be a hot day to see steam rising from the pavement. "We don't have to maintain it, we don't have to shovel the snow, and it's a clean, dry, safe experience for our guests coming in the front door," said Ken Kornack, Minnesota Zoo Director of Facilities.

Safety is the idea behind the heated sidewalks at the Target Field light rail platform and Interchange Plaza.

"You want to have a plaza that is free of the snow and ice during the entire winter, as opposed to the alternative- to try and clear the snow and ice, shovel it," said Carl Michaud, Hennepin County Environmental Services Director.

The upfront costs of installing heated sidewalks are large. Hennepin County wouldn't release the numbers. According to Uponor, the cost for a project about a tenth the size of the Interchange Plaza would cost about $100,000 or more.

The plaza project was a big one for Uponor. "We essentially did about a 100,000 square feet of snow melt for them," said Jeff Wiedemann, Uponor Project Manager.

But as the Minnesota Zoo can attest to, the savings come later. "There's a lot of maintenance savings, you don't have to shovel snow, even with the foot snow fall we got last month, the sidewalks stayed clean and dry," said Kornack.

In another cost-saving factor for Hennepin County, all the heat is reused from the HERC waste plant next-door. "We thought this would be a useful benefit of the heat which would normally just be wasted," said Michaud. So instead of steam rising from the plant, it recycles down and rises from the pavement.

According to Hennepin County, there are no other plans to install heated platforms at other light rail stations. The one at Target Field was chosen because of its proximity to the HERC.

We could see heated sidewalks as a part of the Nicollet Mall remodel. According to the designer of the project, James Corner Field Operations, heated sidewalks are still on the drawing board, as long as costs can be kept within the City of Minneapolis' budget.