The Minnesota Department of Transportation on Wednesday unveiled its 2013 plans for repairing, rebuilding and refurbishing stateroads and bridges to the tune of $1.1 billion in state and federal funds.
This year's roads and bridges project lists includes 87 in the Twin Cities area, 193 in greater Minnesota and an additional 57 statewide involving railroad crossings, seawalls and docks, regional airport runways and terminals, and transit centers.
MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle said the ultimate goal is a transportation system that's more reliable, quicker and safer. But department officials acknowledged that reaching that goal would mean hassles for many drivers who will be forced to navigate closed roads, reduced lanes and other challenges to a quick commute.
"Yes, construction causes traffic tie-ups, congestion, things like that," said MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht. "But when we're done, they provide a better product, a smoother ride, a safer road."
A few of the likeliest choke points include:
— The resurfacing of Interstate 94 for seven miles between St. Cloud and Clearwater will reduce traffic to one lane in both directions for the 7.5-mile stretch from April through July. MnDOT is predicting "delays and long backups during peak travel periods" on a highway heavily used by both commuters between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, and on weekends by people traveling to cabins and resorts.
— The full closure for 75 days, starting in mid-April, of a small portion of Highway 36 in Maplewood near the Highway 61 interchange.
— Two projects likely to increase commuting headaches in downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul: the replacement of Park Ave. and Portland Ave. bridges over I-94 in Minneapolis, putting those arterial streets out of commission for three months starting in May; and the replacement of the Lafayette Bridge on Highway 52 in St. Paul, which will close the passage to vehicles longer than 35 feet starting in April.
— The reconstruction of Interstate 35 from Esko to Proctor in northern Minnesota, reducing traffic to a single lane in both directions from May to late fall.
Zelle said the size of the construction list matches recent years, but that "there's a lot more we'd like to do. There's more good ideas than there are available resources." He said a proposed addition of a lane each way on I-94 between the western suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Cloud, recently advocated by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, fits that description.
Zelle and other officials repeatedly warned drivers to use caution when they drive through construction zones. Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol noted that from 2010 to 2012, there were 22 traffic fatalities in construction zones on Minnesota roads, and 2,400 injury crashes.
"You need to be aware of construction zones and change your behavior when you drive through them," Roeske said. "These are your family members, your neighbors and your friends working in these zones."
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Online: Twin Cities full project list: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/construction/2013/metroprojectlist.pdf
Greater Minnesota full project list: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/construction/2013/statewideprojectlist.pdf