Monticello I-94 reconstruction work will create traffic challenge

Narrow lanes, a 55 mile-per-hour work zone speed limit and short-term and long-term ramp closures with detours will part of the Interstate 94 reconstruction project that’s scheduled to begin in April and end in November.
Monticello council members recently received an advance look at the during a council meeting visit with Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) representatives, who described the $17.3 million project.
“The project is being driven by the need to replace deteriorating pavement on the highway,” explained Claudia Dumont, District 3 project manager. “We also have a number of issues with traffic merging on the westbound side of I-94, with vehicles coming off of the County Road 18 entrance ramp to I-94 conflicting with vehicles wanting to exit to Highway 25. We also have merge issues with traffic entering the eastbound lanes of I-94 from Highway 25.”
MnDOT’s coming improvements will reconstruct I-94 into the center median and add a raised concreted barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes.
“There will be a 12-foot shoulder between the travel lanes and the raised concrete barrier,” Dumont said. “We have to install storm sewer right down the center of the highway, to drain the median to ditches on the outside. We will be replacing all of the concrete pavement, and we will be reconstructing the ramps to Highway 25. In addition to those improvements, we will be building an entirely new third lane from County Road 18 to the exit ramp at Highway 25.”
On the eastbound side of I-94, MnDOT will be separating the loop and ramp from Highway 25 from the eastbound mainline of I-94, similar to I-49 in  Rogers. “That’s working well to separate merging traffic,” Dumont said. “We will be building a noise barrier on the north side of I-94 near the Monticello Bluffs Apartment Complex.”
Stage 1 prep work will be happening at night, with single-lane closures. MnDOT will be building crossovers between eastbound and westbound lanes for the traffic switches, and some temporary widening of eastbound I-94 shoulders and a short section of westbound shoulder as well as the center I-94 median.
Stage 2 of the project will shift all traffic onto eastbound I-94. The westbound on-loop of County Road 18 will be closed for the entire duration of the project.
“The westbound on-ramp at Highway 25 will be closed to reconstruct the ramp. We will be adding a right turn lane, up on top at the traffic signal,” Dumont said.
According to Dumont, the westbound on-ramp will be closed for reconstruction for about 30 days.
“We hope it’s shorter,” she said. “When that ramp is closed, there will be a detour on County Road 75 to the interchange at Hasty,” Dumont said. “The ramp and loop from Highway 25 to eastbound I-94 will also have to be closed at this time, because we’ll be shifting traffic over using the merge areas and the road shoulder.”
While traffic is being diverted eastbound, the project contractor will be building the new westbound lanes and shoulders and installing storm sewers and the raised median barrier down the center of Interstate 94.
During Stage 2, if a motorist is coming toward Monticello from the west, an exit will still be possible at Highway 25, Chelsea Road will be the eastbound detour route and County Road 75 will be the westbound detour route, Dumont said.
“Motorists will always be able to exit westbound at County Road 18, westbound at Highway 25 and there will be the detour to Hasty.”
The new concrete barrier in the Interstate 94 median will run from County Road 18 to the Highway 25 exit.
During Stage 3, all traffic will be switched to the new westbound lanes of Interstate 94. Ramps from eastbound I-94 and Highway 25 and County Road 18 will be closed, but not at the same time, Dumont said.
“Motorists will always have access from eastbound I-94 into Monticello. For one particular given period of time, access will be at Highway 25, and at another, it will be at County Road 18,” she said.  Stage 4 will signal a return to night work as the crossovers are removed, Dumont said.
According to Dumont, installation of the noise barrier will be according to the project contractor’s schedule. The work is likely to occur later in the work season.
“The noise barrier is a federal mandate, and we did an extensive noise analysis throughout the corridor,” Dumont said. “The only place a barrier was found feasible and cost-effective was near Monticello Bluffs.”
Those residents did review and vote in favor of the proposed noise barrier, Dumont told the council.
MnDOT public affairs coordinator J.P. Gillach also attended the Feb. 10 Monticello City Council meeting. He provided information about MnDOT’s communication outreach.
“A lot of people don’t know that this project will be coming at them,” Gillach said. “What we know from most of our past projects is the primary thing that people want to know is the traffic plan and how a project is going affect their daily lives.” Gillach said their will be business outreach meetings with the Monticello Chamber of Commerce & Industry to help explain the I-94 reconstruction project, including a March 18 luncheon event.
“We’’ll also have a public open house closer to the start of the project,” he said.
According to Gillach, the best way for residents and motorists to stay informed about construction changes and project updates is to visit http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d3/monti/ to view detailed detour maps.
The public can also use the website to sign up for project email updates.
“We really want people to sign up on the website, because it’s the best tool we have for communicating traffic changes,” Gillach told the council and city staff.

Contact Tim Hennagir at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com

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