As if the busway construction wasn't enough.

Drivers on Cedar Avenue have started seeing even more orange as the Minnesota Department of Transportation works on a five-week project to smooth the highway through northern Apple Valley and Eagan.

"With both projects going on, it's a good idea to plan alternate routes to get around some of the congestion they're going to find there," said Kirsten Klein, a MnDOT spokeswoman.

The congestion was already apparent Aug. 15 -- the first day of lane closures on the northern stretch of highway -- with northbound traffic backed up to McAndrews Road at 9:30 a.m.

Lane closures will vary over the next five weeks, first northbound and then southbound, as crews repair rough patches in the concrete between McAndrews Road and Diffley Road.

For about three weeks, Klein said, northbound drivers will have access to one regular lane of the road and the shoulder through that stretch.

There may also be sporadic closures of entrance and exit ramps at Interstate 35E and other intersections along Cedar.

Klein said some of the lanes will remain closed even after the roadwork appears finished because the new concrete needs time to cure. "They don't want people traveling over it while it's not cured yet," she said.

When the concrete repair is done, MnDOT will next focus on resurfacing the stretch of Cedar from Diffley north to the river.

The five-mile, $5.6 million project is part of MnDOT's "Better Roads for a Better Minnesota" program -- a push to make improvements to roads across the state, including pavement repairs along more than 700 miles of state highway, over four years.

The MnDOT work means all of Cedar Avenue will have been smoothed out, from the Minnesota River south through Lakeville, by the time the Red Line bus rapid transitway opens in 2013.

After starting in southern Apple Valley and Lakeville in 2011, Dakota County has been reworking Cedar Avenue from County Road 42 north to McAndrews Road this summer.

Most of the roadwork is expected to wrap up yet this year, although some landscaping and additional work will be done in 2013.

The busway, which will feature shoulder-running buses stopping at stations between Apple Valley and the Mall of America, is expected to open in the spring.

Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286