Road projects that could cause the biggest headachesby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Road construction season can mean big traffic headaches for drivers, especially when road closures or lane reductions are involved.
Because this season includes more projects than usual, the impacts on traffic could be bigger as well. Here's a look at some of the projects expected to cause delays this spring, summer or fall.
Various lanes, ramps and shoulders will be closed from May 10 through Aug. 20 between Highway 280 and Western Avenue in St. Paul. The $11 million project involves resurfacing the road, rebuilding shoulders, improving drainage and installing new lighting.
Those who frequently drive between Minneapolis and St. Paul will have to deal with delays next year too when workers turn to the section between Highway 280 and Fifth Street in Minneapolis. Bus travelers could also be affected by delays during the resurfacing.
MnDOT plans to rebuild a 10-mile stretch of I-35 beginning just before the highway reaches Duluth at a cost of $70 million. While the road will remain open when construction starts in May, much of it will be a single lane in each direction. The construction work descends down "Thompson Hill" and continues through West Duluth to about the downtown area.
Resurfacing will take place on the remaining segment of I-35 past downtown Duluth. MnDOT has said there won't be any official detours, so it predicts there will be slow traffic throughout the construction area. Traffic backups are likely.
I-35 is not only an important route to Duluth, but it also serves as a key link for traffic headed to Lake Superior's North Shore and to and from Canada. Locals are being urged to use city streets instead.
Construction of a new interchange is slated for this fall at a cost of $20 million. Lane closures are expected, but city officials said they're waiting to hear more about how the area might be impacted. "I can imagine that lanes may get congested and traffic will slow down," Savage Public Works Director John Powell said.
Powell noted that the project on nearby Interstate 494 and Highway 169 that's scheduled for next spring could also play a role in how congested the Savage interchange gets. "There may be some overlap (in construction), which may pose larger problems," he said.
Traffic shifts and full closures will happen as part of this $49 million project to construct interchanges and bridges. The project has been in progress since July 2008, and work isn't expected to finish until July 2011.
MnDOT is constructing a new loop in the interchange at a cost of $604,000. Construction is scheduled between June 14 and Sept. 24. Lanes closures are expected, along with a 30-day full closure of ramps after July 4.
No, that project still isn't done. The good news is this is the last year for construction in the highly congested area, meaning drivers will be able to enjoy the added lanes and expanded bridges soon. But through the end of the year, drivers can expect lane closures, weekend closures and detours as MnDOT constructs bus rapid transit and MnPASS Express lanes.
MnDOT has a full list of the projects for greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities area on its Web site. Here's a short list of other big ones to watch out for:
- Rebuilding the Highway 52 Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul at a cost of $46 million. MnDOT expects lane closures to happen. Construction is scheduled for December 2010 through November 2014.
- Building a four-lane alignment and 10 bridges on Highway 14 south of Waseca at a cost of $56 million. Road delays and a two-month detour are expected to occur during construction, which is scheduled to run until 2012.
- Expanding Highway 71 from two to four lanes, adding turn lanes south of Bemidji and building a new bridge over Highway 2 at a cost of $13.5 million. Construction will start in mid-June and a detour is expected.
- Replacing four bridges at Dresbach Township in Winona County at a cost of $4.4 million. Long-term lane closures are planned with head-to-head traffic in the area.
- Bridge painting and bridge deck replacement on Interstates 94 and 35 in the Twin Cities. Watch out this summer and fall for lane closures and one-time full closures of parts of the interstates and bridges.
(MPR reporters Sunny Thao and Bob Kelleher contributed to this report.)