The crews are still in snow mode, but when the blades come off the plows the Minnesota Department of Transportation will get to work on the second-biggest slate of metro area road construction projects in its history — 74 of them — along with another 194 in outstate Minnesota.
In total, MnDOT will spend more than $1.1 billion this summer on road construction and 40 other transportation projects to address safety issues and "improve our quality of life," said Gov. Mark Dayton.
"It's like building a Vikings' stadium in a single season," said State Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle Thursday. "This year we will be able to maintain and advance the transportation system in ways citizens expect. There will be slight disruptions in work zones, but citizens will appreciate the progress we continue to make on the transportation system."
The high-profile projects in the metro area include Hwy. 100 in St. Louis Park, where bridges at Minnetonka Blvd. and Hwy. 7 will be rebuilt and the highway expanded to three lanes in each direction between Cedar Lake Road and 36th Street.
Drivers will find roads closed while the work gets done. In St. Paul, work on the new MnPass lane from Maryland Avenue to Little Canada Road along I-35E will reduce the freeway between Hwy. 36 and Maryland Avenue to two lanes in each direction for two months. Central Avenue between 14th and 18th Avenue will be closed from April to July as a new railroad bridge is built.
Just outside the metro area, high-impact projects include adding a lane on I-94 between Hwy. 101 in Rogers and Hwy. 241 in St. Michael.
Elsewhere, bridge construction on I-35 in Owatonna, a street reconstruction project on Hwy. 29 in downtown Alexandria and new passing lanes on Hwy. 34 from Detroit Lakes to Nevis also are on the docket.
Five of the projects are being paid for with $300 million in federal funding, what Zelle called a down payment on what MnDOT can do to solve bottlenecks and congestion.
MnDOT will get $18 billion over the next 20 years to fix roads, but a report from the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee late last year said the agency needs $30 billion "to keep pace with Minnesota's growing population and aging infrastructure." The report said that Minnesota ranks 38th among states in pavement quality, and more than half of the state's highways and 35 percent of its bridges are more than 50 years old.
"We have a pothole issue in the state, but that represents the short-term issue," Zelle said. "It underlines infrastructure needs that need a long-term solution."