Construction project will slow traffic on Twin Cities' I-694 later this yearA major repair and rehabilitation project of a nearly six-mile stretch of Interstate 694 in the northern Twin Cities suburbs is slated to start this summer
By: Sarah Horner, St. Paul Pioneer Press / MCT
A major repair and rehabilitation project of a nearly six-mile stretch of Interstate 694 in the northern Twin Cities suburbs is slated to start this summer
The estimated $21 million project will reduce traffic during the day to two lanes in each direction and drop down to one lane at night, according to Kent Barnard, a spokesman with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The affected stretch spans just east of Interstate 35W in Arden Hills to just west of the Mississippi River in Brooklyn Center.
Work is expected to continue on weekends, occasionally necessitating complete closures where I-694 intersects with I-35W.
Ramps on and off the roadway also will be closed at various times throughout the project.
"This is going to make traffic real challenging for people. We know that," Barnard said. "But this is a very necessary project, and once it’s done we’re going to have a smoother ride and longer-lasting pavement."
Age and increased traffic have worn down the road, dotting it with potholes and crumbling concrete, Barnard said.
Crews will replace the battered concrete and overlay new blacktop in a small section near the western end of the project’s perimeter. Drainage pipes beneath the surface will be relined and repaired, and three bridge decks will be replaced, including eastbound and westbound bridges straddling Minnesota 252 and another carrying traffic east over Interstate 94.
"As long as we’re out there, we are going to do as much as we can so we don’t have to go back out in five years," Barnard said.
The project wasn’t scheduled to start until 2017, but federal money that recently became available changed the timeline.
Federal funds will cover about 90 percent of the cost, with the state expected to pick up the remaining $2 million, Barnard said.
Construction is scheduled to start in June and end in November.
The lack of alternative routes will compound traffic congestion during construction, Barnard said, adding that the only other options for drivers are Minnesota 610 to the north and I-94 to the south.
MnDOT is recommending that people who travel the route check www.511mn.org to assess traffic before heading out.
Traffic-forecasting models predict the work will delay traffic by about 20 minutes, assuming no car accidents or weather-related incidents.
"That kind of forecasting is really difficult, though, because it’s hard to determine how many vehicles will go through and how many people will use alternative routes," Barnard said.
MnDOT officials recently met with staff at Fridley-based Medtronic as well as various city staff members in the affected area to warn them of the work.
Work along I-35W and County Road 96 and U.S. 10 are also in the pipeline, Jacobsen said.
"It’s a big undertaking that will have a lot of impact on commuters and a lot of the surrounding communities," Jacobsen said.
He added that the construction is a necessary short-term inconvenience.
"It’s a needed project ... probably 20 years overdue," he said.