Oct. 28—Dear Answer Man: Along with spring, summer, winter and autumn, it seems we get a few extra seasons in Minnesota. One is marked not by orange leafs and running streams but by orange cones and reduced lanes. I speak, of course, of highway construction season. Oh, wise one, are we almost done for 2023, and will 2024 be any kind of mess? — Concerned Motorist.
Well, the good news is most construction in Southeast Minnesota has wrapped up because, well, when the leaves start to fall, the construction crews start heading toward hibernation.
Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Dougherty said among the many projects in District 6 for 2023, only a few are currently active. One is U.S. Highway 61 between Lake City and Red Wing. Dougherty said all that's left is the permanent striping on the road and some landscape seeding. That should be done by next week provided the weather cooperates. Mainly, MnDOT needs dry weather and temperatures a bit above freezing.
The other big project still going on is construction on U.S. Highway 52 north of Zumbrota. Dougherty said crews are still putting down the gravel shoulder in some areas, which means cones and lane closures.
"People don't always see things happening when the cones are up, but it's a sequence," he said. The sequence starts with traffic cones closing off lanes, equipment and construction work.
Dougherty said MnDOT is almost done, and usually puts a deadline of Nov. 15 into its construction contracts because beyond that, Minnesota's winters can put their own halt to construction.
So, no need to worry about continued construction when you hit the road for Thanksgiving travel.
"We should be done here by the next week, or two at most," he said.
Dougherty said next year the focus of construction in the area around Rochester will switch. The
three-year Highway 52 project between Zumbrota and Cannon Falls will be completed
— though MnDOT's Metro District will still have some construction going between Hampton and Rosemount.
Instead, Interstate 90 will see a pair of multi-year projects begin. The first will be bridge construction — six bridges in total over three years — in Austin, as overpass bridges are replaced or refurbished.
"That'll be more disruptive to the people in Austin than the through-traffic, which will be moved to single lanes but otherwise kept moving," Dougherty said.
The second project is also a three-year process to realign and reconfigure the entrance ramps, exit ramps and reconstruct the bridges where Interstate 90 and Highway 52 meet near Marion.
In fact, anyone wanting to know more can go to a MnDOT open house from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Southeast Service Cooperative at the Wood Lake Meeting Center.
That project will include a new "fly-over" bridge that serves as an entrance ramp to eastbound I-90.
The realignment will take away 92% of the left-hand turn traffic, making the interchange safer for motorists, Dougherty said.
A big part of this project is creating an interchange that is designed for how cars and trucks move today vs. when the interchange was built in the 1950s and 1960s, he said.
Finally, Dougherty encouraged everyone to download the MnDOT 511 app onto their phones. Just search for "511 Minnesota" and add the app to your smart phone. It will keep you — your navigator should use it while you're driving — up to date with construction, traffic and weather conditions affecting travel.
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