When southbound I-35E closes in May, local roads — and drivers —will feel the strain.
Even with the start of this summer’s south metro freeway repairs still a month away, 900 people already have signed up to receive instant e-mail updates on the coming construction work.
It’s a measure of just how much inconvenience lies ahead.
Starting in May, the stretch of southbound Interstate 35E between County Road 42 and its junction with I-35W will be closed completely for 30 days to allow crews to put a new concrete deck on the bridge over 35W.
“Think about that — closing 35E for a month,” said Dakota County Administrator Brandt Richardson. “My goodness, it’s going to have a major impact.”
The state job has Richardson’s attention at the county level because it’s rare for a freeway to close for a month and he knows local roads will carry some of the burden.
Richardson cringes at the prospect that all the traffic from southbound 35E will pile onto County Road 42, which is already busy and often slow-moving.
“When they close the 35E bridge, the last exit will be the County Road 42 exit,” Richardson said.
He asked the county transportation staff to anticipate that and do what they can to smooth out the inevitable delays.
“I am assured that they are talking together about signal timing and trying to anticipate some of this,” Richardson said. “This is going to be a major stress on the entire road system.”
The official Minnesota Department of Transportation detour will route cars away from 35E, sending southbound traffic first west on I-494 and then south on 35W.
But a lot of people may ignore the detour signs and take their chances on 35E, expecting to find a way to avoid the long detour, Richardson said.
After the first few days, people will figure out that the “Road Closed Ahead” signs on southbound 35E mean what they say, Richardson said. “The more folks in our community know this is coming and can plan for alternatives, the better off we will all be.”
A MnDOT survey taken among the 900 people who have signed up for e-mail alerts found that most people plan to cope with traffic inconveniences by finding alternate routes, rather than shift to a bus.
And the disruption will not stop with the closure of southbound I-35E.
I-35W northbound near the junction with I-35E will be closed for one weekend early in May to allow removal of the I-35E bridge deck.
From mid-June to mid-July, after the I-35E bridge work is finished, MnDOT will confine traffic to one lane in each direction from the split at I-35W to Cliff Road to allow for bridge painting and repair. That stretch of interstate is 5 ½ miles long.
Then in August, a 12-mile stretch of I-35 from County Road 2 in Elko New Market up to the split with I-35E will be restricted to single lanes in both directions for pavement repair.