Rice County leaders says plans for one of the biggest projects – and potentially most disruptive for travelers –in recent years continue to move along as scheduled.
But when the much-anticipated six-legged roundabout at Interstate 35/Minnesota Hwy. 19 is complete, the busiest interchange in the county will not only be safer, but infinitely easier to navigate.
County Engineer Dennis Luebbe shared updates with the Board of Commissioners about the project during a Nov. 15 tour of county roads. The tour gave commissioners an opportunity to see county roads and bridges in area of the county they may not frequent, but also from an engineering perspective.
The project, which will be constructed using about $2.8 million in federal and state grants, along with $1 million from Rice County, has been in the planning stages for years and on the agenda during discussions with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for years before that. Work is expected to begin late next spring. Depending on the weather,
County Engineer Dennis Luebbe says the project could run into the fall.
County commissioners pressed Minnesota Department of Transportation officials to address safety concerns on that section of the interchange for years, arguing that northbound travelers, particularly semis, have difficulty safely making a left-hand turn off the exit ramp because of the amount of traffic on the road. The most recent MnDOT traffic count indicates about 10,000 vehicles travel through that portion of the I-35/Hwy. 9 interchange each day.
The west side of interchange was upgraded with a traffic signal about a decade ago. In 2019, the county shifted the northernmost section of County Road 46/Bagley Road about 300 feet to the west to help reduce backups on Hwy. 19 west where vehicles, particulars semis, were looking to turn left into the Flying J Travel Center.
Project staging for the roundabout is not yet complete, but it’s expected to include a temporary road under the I-35 overpass and a realignment of a segment of County Road 59/Anoka Avenue. While Hwy. 19 traffic will be maintained throughout construction, County Roads 46 and 59, and the northbound I-35 ramp will be closed at times. Motorists planning to travel in that area should check the project page on the county website (ricecountymn.gov) which will go live early next year.
County and state engineers will host a final open house this spring for area residents to view project plans and ask questions about the planned construction.
Despite the cold and snow, work on a new County Road 76/Base Line Road bridge continues. The bridge is expected to open to traffic early next month. Work will resume in 2023 with asphalt paving.
What’s coming in 2023?
- In addition to the roundabout, the Highway Department is working with a consulting firm on a feasibility study of a proposed County Road 9/I-35 interchange. The Minnesota Legislature in 2021 provided $500,000 for the study which will identify a footprint for a future interchange at the site.
- Rehabilitation of about 6 miles of County Road 52 between Hwy. 19 and County Road 59 and about a mile of County Road 59 west to County Road 4.
- Reconstruction of a .8-mile section of County Road 4/Railway Street SW in Lonsdale from Hwy. 19/Central Street W to just south of 80th Street West/Idaho Street.
Dennis Luebbe, Rice County Engineer
Suzy Rook. Communications Coordinator