Residents voice concerns about I-35 work

Nearly 50 area residents and officials attended the Tuesday, April 16, MnDOT meeting at the Elko New Market Library about work being done on Interstate 35. The Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce held the meeting that listed work to be done and answered questions about the impact of the work. (Patrick Fisher Photo)

Repairs, resurfacing and bridge improvements to Interstate 35 and I- 35E in Dakota and Scott counties will be part of the world area residents will be living in this summer.

Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) explained work to be done on the interstate and answered questions Tuesday, April 16, at the Elko New Market Library.

Hosted by the Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce, the event attracted nearly 50 people. Attending were area residents from Elko New Market, Lakeville, New Prague and other communities, surrounding townships, business owners and city and county officials.

MnDOT planner Jon Solberg explained work to be done and the timeline. For I-35E, around the first part of May, southbound 35E will be closed for 30 days between County Road 42 and I-35. the official detour will route traffic to I-494 from Eagan west to Bloomington and then south on I-35W.

The deck of the 35E flyover bridge will be repaired. The new deck will be done in four weeks, which Solberg said will be the fastest repairs in the state.

From mid-July to November work will be done on I-35 from where it intersects with Scott County Road 2 to where it splits into 35W and 35E. The work includes an unbonded concrete overlay, concrete pavement repair and diamond grading, which will improve the ride smoothness. Also a cable median guardrail will be installed from County Road 2 to County Highway 70, which is to improve safety. Solberg said the various projects will help increase the life of the road. The length of the road work also depends on the weather.

Solberg said when drivers go past one area of road where it looks like no work is being done, it is actually the concrete curing. He noted the work on I-35 was actually scheduled for 2017, but there were funds this year for the work.

There were several questions from the audience, including why MnDOT doesn’t install a third lane along I-35. Solberg said that is driven by the needs of the region and traffic congestion. Since the congestion in this area doesn’t measure up to others, there are no plans to install another lane.

Solberg and Kirsten Klein of MnDOT public affairs said they are working with Scott and Dakota counties as much as possible to coordinate traffic and routes. Klein said that during the first few days of the work they will see the most congestion until motorists find their own routes.

Several residents were concerned about drivers using frontage roads and surrounding roads as alternate routes. There were concerns about increased traffic and speed on the roads. Solberg realized people would use those roads and would have additional signs.

Scott County Chief Deputy Dean Opatz said they are trying to curb the behavior of drivers before it starts by educating people and conditioning them for the changes. Elko New Market Police Chief Steve Mortenson said local law enforcement is also aware and would be increasing patrols. "We just ask for some patience," said Chief Mortenson.

One idea offered that met approval by others was for MnDOT to build the shoulders to be used as an extra lane. When work is done every five years there would still be two lanes instead of one. Solberg said they had looked at it, but it was decided it was a poor investment for the state as the lane would only be used four times over its lifetime. There would also have to be changes to the grading and the drainage.

Elko New Market City Council member Bob Crawford asked about setting up a detour for semi-trucks. Solberg responded there isn’t a real good detour for I-35. Crawford said semi-trucks will likely use County Road 2 to 91 as a detour.

During the work, people can get information by calling 511 or through The Elko New Market Chamber of Commerce will also have information on its Facebook page.