I-694 receives funding for part-time lanes

Additions expected to reduce traffic congestion in the area

Commuters traveling along Interstate 694 in the northeast metro should see shorter commute times starting in 2015.  

Last month, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced ten highway projects to receive $300 million in funding through the state’s new Corridors of Commerce program. The program was established during the 2013 legislative session to improve the movement of freight and add capacity to some of the state’s most congested roadways.

MnDOT project manager Mark Lindeberg said more than 100,000 vehicles travel I-694 daily and the section of roadway between Rice Street and Lexington Avenue is one of the busiest in the metro.

To help increase traffic flow through the bottleneck, dynamic shoulder lanes will be created on the two-mile stretch in both directions. Lindeberg said inside shoulders would be widened to 14 feet and used as ordinary lanes during peak traffic periods. The shoulder lanes will be controlled electronically with overhead lights indicating when the lanes are open or closed.

The Corridors of Commerce program will provide between $35 and $42 million to construct the shoulder lanes, which Lindeberg said would not have restrictions -- they will be open to all vehicles and will not require a MnPASS. The lanes will be constructed in 2015.

State Representative Jason Isaacson (DFL-Shoreview) and State Senator Bev Scalze (DFL-Shoreview) authored legislation to mitigate traffic problems and enhance roadway infrastructure in their districts earlier this year.

In a written statement, Scalze said she was grateful that the north suburbs received funding to reduce congestion and increase safety on the two-mile stretch of I-694, where more than 37,000 people drive to work at major companies like Land O’Lakes, Cummins Power, Deluxe Corporations and PaR Systems.

“It’s a wonderful first step towards meeting our transportation needs,” Isaacson said of the project in a press release. “I applaud MnDOT and Governor Dayton for making this a priority.

Both lawmakers pledged to continue advocating for more road improvements in the area during the 2014 legislative session and said they’d work to secure funding to replace the Rice Street bridge over I-694.

Other Corridors of Commerce projects include:

  • Highway 2, passing lanes from Cass Lake to Deer River. The preliminary cost estimate is between $8 and $10 million and projected to start in 2014.
  • Additional lanes on I-94 from Highway 101 to Highway 241. The project will receive between $35 to $46 million in Corridors of Commerce funding and is scheduled to start in 2014.
  • Passing lanes from Detroit Lakes to Nevis on Highway 34. The project’s cost is estimated to be between $11 and $15 million and slated for 2014.
  • Four-lane upgrade on Highway 14 from Owatonna to Dodge Center to be constructed in 2014, with an estimated cost of $16 to $20 million.
  • Four-lane upgrade on Highway 14 from North Mankato to Nicollet. The project is estimated to begin in 2015 and will cost between $20 and $28 million.
  • Freeway extension on Highway 610 from County Road 81 to I-94. The estimated $103 to $131 million project is scheduled for next year.
  • Highway 169 will be converted to a four a four-lane highway from Highway 15 to one mile east of Highway 7. The project will receive between $14 to $20 million in Corridors of Commerce funding and is scheduled to begin in 2016.
  • Passing lanes will be added to Highway 23 from Willmar to I-90 at an estimated cost of $13 to $19 million. The roadwork is projected to begin in 2016.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

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