This report details some Minnesota notes from my 2004 summer vacation in mid-June, 2004.

Froggie's 2004 Summer Vacation: Minnesota Adventures

We spent about a week (6/20-6/27) tooling around Minnesota, some of that in the Twin Cities area, though we also took a trip up to my aunt's cabin in Todd County, via Lake Itasca on the way up and the MN/SD/IA marker on the way back home. This trip will be reported on in another post. Some Minnesota notes:

- Noticed that MnDOT has updated the BGS along I-35E in Dakota County. Some of them include blue pentagon shields for county routes, in keeping with what seems to be Dakota County's policy of using blue pentagons for County State Aid Highways (CSAH) and white square shields for non-CSAH county routes. Stearns County also seems to use this same type of policy.

- Seen a lot of newer "BEGIN SPEED LIMIT XX Y/Y MILE" signs scattered around.  MnDOT has used this type of shield for years (as opposed to using "SPEED ZONE AHEAD" or "REDUCED SPEED AHEAD", although the latter occasionally shows up on Minnesota roads), though previously it was a set of 3 signs, with the "BEGIN" and "Y/Y MILE" on seperate sheets/tabs. These new signs are all on a single sheet.

- MnDOT is close to finishing up reconstruction of the I-35E "Lafayette Bridge" over the Mississippi River. This project began in 2001, with estimated completion this fall, and consists of replacing the old 4-lane/no-shoulders bridge with a new 6-lane/full-shoulders bridge, plus a bike/ped walkway on the downriver side. Currently, all traffic is on the SB lanes, with the on-ramp from MN 13 and the off-ramp to Shepard Rd both closed. The NB bridge deck looks completed, and concrete has been poured on the approaches, so all that's left is pretty much finish-up work.

- MnDOT has indeed installed 1/10 milemarkers on both I-35W south of downtown Minneapolis and on the short MN 65 stub into downtown. Don't recall seeing them anywhere else, at least of yet.

- Where the I-94 off-ramp meets Marion St/Kellogg Blvd near downtown St. Paul, there's small VMS attached to the I-94 East trailblazer on the signal mast. I'm guessing these are used to redirect I-94 East-bound traffic onto Kellogg Blvd in times of congestion.

- Took a look at some of the plans for US 52 in Rochester that were available in the MnDOT Library. On some of the signage plans, there's indications that MnDOT will be adding exit numbers to US 52 as part of the Rochester reconstruction. I sent an E-mail asking for clarification, and indeed receive confirmation that exit numbers will be added. This will mark the first time MnDOT has installed exit numbers on a non-Interstate freeway.

- At one point, took a ride down MN 55/Hiawatha Ave, about a week before the Hiawatha LRT line opened. At the time, they were still doing some testing of the trains. Noticed signal phasing was a lot different than before.  Previously, there were protected-permitted left turn signals from Hiawatha to 32nd, 35th, 38th, 42nd, and 46th Streets. With LRT along the corridor now, all of those have been replaced by protected-only left turn signals, and from what I understand, there's a bit of a wait. The whole issue of signal timing and the LRT crossings is very complex, and the bugs to this day are still being worked out.

Speaking of the LRT crossings, while the line parallels Hiawatha, the LRT trains have exclusive right-of-way, to the point where railroad-style crossing signals are used on the side streets.

- While 87-octane gas prices have dropped a bit, prices for 89+ octane have apparently stayed high in Minneapolis.

- All of the properties between old Cedar Ave and MN 77, between MN 62 and 66th St in Richfield, have been removed, presumably as part of the new runway construction at MSP airport. Some of the former ROW will eventually be used to convert the SB side of the MN 77/66th St interchange into standard diamond ramps (currently, the SB ramps go to/from Old Cedar Ave).

- While researching at the Minnesota History Center one day, came upon an interesting proposal from 1973. I had known before that MN 55 was proposed to become freeway between MN 5 and I-494. A map proposal I found shed some more light on it, and even provided an additional bonus. At one point, there was a proposal to relocate MN 55 SOUTH of I-494, onto a new location road about 1/4 mile west of the Eagan/Inver Grove Heights line. The relocated highway would have had partial interchanges at I-494 (access to/from the west) and existing MN 55, and a diamond interchange at CSAH 26/Lone Oak Rd. At existing MN 55, it would have tied into what was upgraded in the '90s as a "stub freeway" between MN 3 and US 52. There would have been a *VERY EXTENSIVE* system of C/D roads along I-494 between this proposed MN 55 and I-35E/existing MN 55 (basically 3 carriageways in each direction), and the I-494/I-35E interchange would have looked drastically different. Instead of today's WB-to-SB flyover, there would have been NB-WB and SB-EB flyovers, as well as a NB C/D road between CSAH 26 and I-494. In addition, there would have been SB-EB and WB-NB access between I-35E and MN 55. Another note from the proposal: Eagandale Blvd would have been extended south of CSAH 26/Lone Oak Rd, across I-35E, and had access to/from the north at I-35E, with ramps bridged over the south ramps at CSAH 26.

- Another interesting find at the History Center: some (including me) know that the original proposal for I-35 south of I-90 and into Iowa had it first duplexing with I-90 to west of Albert Lea, then heading south into Iowa, roughly paralleling US 69. Obviously, this did not come to pass, but I found an "interim proposal" between that original proposal and what was built. In 1964, the I-35/I-90 duplex was no more, and I-35 was proposed to continue south, going east of Albert Lea and crossing Albert Lea lake, much like it does today.  However, once past US 65 near the southeast corner of Albert Lea, instead of continuing south as it does today, I-35 was proposed to head almost due west, crossing US 69, going between the Twin Lakes, and paralleling US 69 to the west by about 1/2-1 mile or so into Iowa. Additional interchanges were proposed at CSAH 18 and US 69 near Albert Lea, and two interchanges in the Emmons vicinity, including one right at the state line. By 1967, this proposal too was canned, and the existing alignment came about.

- After visiting the Science Museum of Minnesota (and seeing Forces of Nature on the IMAX screen), took a trip down a newly reconstructed section of Shepard Rd along the Mississippi Riverfront. This section, between the river and downtown, was the last segment of Shepard Rd/Warner Rd to be upgraded to 4-lane divided highway. While parts on either end are of older construction and condition, the entire route from MN 5 to US 10/61 is now complete as a 45-50 MPH expressway.  The newest section is nicely done, neatly fitting into the narrow space between the bluff that downtown St. Paul sits on and the river, and even includes a bike/ped path on the river side (much as the other recent reconstruction projects along the roadway have). Also significant is that virtually all of the reconstruction over the last 10 years (from I-35E to just east of downtown) has been done in concrete. The city of St. Paul has also proposed a connection between Shepard/Warner Rds and I-35E north of downtown. If built, this connection, along with the reconstructed segments of Shepard Rd, would provide a truck bypass of the section of I-35E where trucks are prohibited (from MN 5 to I-94).

- Ran into the same resurfacing project on I-94 in St. Paul that Matt Salek recently commented on. Had a lane restricton EB at the US 10/61 interchange.

- Not noticed before: WB I-694/US 10 includes MN 51 on the BGS at the exit for Hamline Ave. There is no direct ramp between WB I-694 and MN 51 South, so my guess is a U-turn was added onto Hamline Ave just north of the interchange.

- MnDOT has recently added a 3rd lane along MN 65 in the vicinity of US 10. Did not see how far to the north the lanes go, but to the south, the 3rd SB lane ends at the ramp to WB CSAH 10 (old US 10), while the 3rd NB lane begins at the County Road J/85th Ave NE intersection (just north of CSAH 10).

- What started as a 4-lane freeway bridge in 1986 is now an 8-lane freeway bridge: MN 610 at the Mississippi River. Due in part to heavy traffic, a planned widening of MN 610 between MN 252 and MN 47 was bumped up a few years, and completed a couple years ago. MN 610 is now 6 lanes between MN 252 and MN 47 (the WB 3rd lane actually begins at the on-ramp from CSAH 51/University Ave), with a 4th auxiliary lane in each direction between MN 252 and CSAH 1/East River Rd across the river.

- Since my last time in the area, Hennepin County has upgraded CSAH 130/77th Ave N to a 4-lane divided highway between US 169 and CSAH 61/Hemlock Ln, through a still-active rock quarry. This 4-lane route continues further west before turning north, and passes by the new Maple Grove "town center" (Maple Grove's attempt to create a downtown).

- MnDOT has removed the CSAH 52 shields at the I-494 interchange at Nicollet Ave in Bloomington. Not sure if this is to avoid confusion with US 52 (they did a similar thing a few years back with the CSAH 5 shields in Minnetonka), or if Hennepin County has actually decommissioned CSAH 52. Not sure what the answer is yet.

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