Inver Grove Heights, South St. Paul to see freeway construction in 2018


Work on Interstate 494 in 2018 will take place between Blaine Avenue in Inver Grove Heights and Hardman Avenue in South St. Paul.

Interstate 494 on deck for upgrades

It’s the one constant in Minnesota: road construction. Plans are already underway for a freeway project that will take place in 2018 on Interstate 494 in Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. 

The construction zone will be west of Hardman Avenue in South St. Paul and east of the Highway 52 ramps in Inver Grove Heights.

Tony Fischer, freeway analysis supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said there will be a different strategy with this project. “Historically, MnDOT has ... done bigger projects and fixed problems. This is more from a perspective of we’re not necessarily trying to fix problems. We’re trying to make things better.” 

Fischer said it’s about getting benefits without getting to the point of diminishing returns. This means looking for targeted small improvements that can improve traffic flow and safety, and therefore have a better benefit-cost ratio.

Estimated cost for the proposed I-494 improvements is $18.7 million. The project is expected to take place between spring and fall of 2018, but that timeline is flexible. 

Mohammad Dehdashti, project manager, said Fischer’s job involves identifying spots that are congested and finding solutions to ease that congestion.

Fischer said it’s common for this stretch of I-494 to have backups in the westbound lanes that last one to two hours during morning rush hours. To remedy this, MnDOT is planning to add a westbound traffic lane.

“The purpose and need of this project should make people happy as long as they are traveling this roadway on the westbound side. We were thinking about relieving congestion,” Dehdashti said.

He said right now there’s an on-lane that stops at the Concord Street exit. That lane is going to be extended to hook up with the exit ramp for Highway 52.

The auxiliary westbound lane will be constructed between Hardman Avenue and west of Seventh Avenue.

Jon Solberg, MnDot south area manager, said adding the lane will also have an environmental benefit, since it will help prevent vehicles from idling or moving at a very slow pace. 

While the environmental impact is an added bonus, the main focus of the project is congestion mitigation.

The Concord Street overpass bridge will be widened a little as well to allow for the extra room needed for the new westbound traffic lane.

 

Concrete repairs & sound barriers

As long as work crews are in the area, a couple other things will be accomplished as well. Solberg described the rest of the project as “truly a pavement preservation type project because the pavement is reaching the end of its useful life.” This includes rehabbing the pavement on the Concord Street Bridge and the concrete roadway in both directions.

“That helps us minimize the delay to the public if we can do multiple things at the same time,” Fischer said.

Dehdashti said there will be repair work done on shoulders as well. Three retaining walls will be installed to hold back the earth from the slope.

Another aspect of the project is moving a storm drain to allow the lane addition. The drain will also increase in size to hopefully reduce flooding issues.

A study was conducted about possibly installing noise walls in this corridor. Fischer said there are federal and state regulations that require MnDOT to study the need and cost effectiveness of noise walls. If certain thresholds are reached, then sound barriers are offered to a community. The community gets to decide if it wants noise-buffering walls. 

Dehdashti said two of the three proposed walls were approved.

Fischer said the project is in the final design stage, where engineers take the concept and get the precise details figured out. 

There are also permitting questions that need to be answered. The project will need a permit from the watershed district.

 

Temporary traffic closures

It is anticipated there will be short-term traffic shutdowns during the project including possible closures of the Concord loop on the westbound lane as well as ramps for Fifth and Seventh Avenue on the westbound lane. 

Part or all of the Concord Bridge will be likely closed so the span can be widened.

Because design work hasn’t started yet, it is not known how long these closures could be, Solberg said.

Part of the design is developing construction staging that tells motorists which ramps will be closed and when, Dehdashti said.

Open houses will be likely held to provide more information to city staff and the city councils once more information is known. 

For more information on the project, Solberg recommended visiting https://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/i494invergroveheights/. Here there will be an option to sign up for email updates as the project moves further along.

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

 

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