Road work will continue through weekend, despite rain threat

  • Article by: JIM FOTI , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 18, 2007 - 9:45 AM

Crews will need some dry time to add two lanes to I-94, which will have 3 miles between I-35W and Hwy. 280 closed to traffic.

Minnesota transportation officials decided not to let a little rain -- or possibly a lot of rain -- get in the way of closing and redoing a 3-mile stretch of Interstate 94 this weekend.

After looking at forecasts and talking with the contractor, they decided Friday to go ahead with the closing of I-94 between I-35W and Hwy. 280 so that the freeway can be temporarily expanded to eight lanes.

That stretch of 94 is part of the designated detour around the 35W bridge collapse, as is Hwy. 280 -- and 280 is down to one lane in each direction this weekend.

MnDOT is posting designated detours via area freeways, though the westbound detour bypasses downtown Minneapolis, leaving Twins fans and others to find their way via city streets -- many of which have their own challenges.

University Avenue, for example, a main westerly route to the Washington Avenue bridge, takes drivers through the construction zone for the new University of Minnesota football stadium. At the west end of the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue bridge, Lake Street is down to a single lane in each direction because of an unrelated construction project. And anyone trying to take Larpenteur Avenue toward Minneapolis will find the road closed at Hwy. 280 -- that interchange also is closed for a reconfiguration this weekend.

Meanwhile, west-metro drivers heading eastbound toward the closed section of I-94 will encounter orange barrels well ahead of where the road actually closes. The eastbound roadway will be down to one lane through the Lowry Hill tunnel, though drivers will be able to access southbound 35W as well as Hiawatha Avenue.

The project is expected to be done by 5 a.m. Monday. That means doing work during the rains expected today, but Nick Thompson, an area manager for MnDOT, said it's doable. The entire 3-mile stretch of roadway will be milled, something that can be done in the rain.

At least some dry weather will be needed Sunday to lay the new pavement, which will then be striped for four lanes in each direction.

The $1.16 million project will eliminate shoulders on the 3-mile stretch, meaning that buses that had used shoulder lanes will lose their "transit advantage," Thompson said. He said transit agencies will take a look at their schedules after the first week to see whether revisions are needed.

MnDOT had wanted to get the road widened before the Minnesota State Fair begins on Thursday. The fair adds significant traffic to I-94, and Thompson said that 250,000 vehicles already were using the 3-mile stretch on a typical weekend.

Jim Foti • 612-673-4491

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