This report shows various notes from my mini-trips and research back home in Minnesota during my August, 2006 summer vacation.

Froggie's 2006 Summer Vacation Days 5-17:  Research Runs

Below are comments from various trips around the Twin Cities. Two other trips around Minnesota that I took during this timeframe (one with Monte Castleman) will be covered in different posts.

- Checked out the new auxiliary lane on westbound I-394. In response to public comments and concerns and some notable congestion when MnDOT converted the I-394 HOV lanes into HO/T lanes last year, they went in and built a westbound auxiliary lane between MN 100 and US 169. There are a few locations where the shoulder narrows, but all in all it's close to standard and makes for a much improved trip along this segment of 394. Along with the auxiliary lane, the westbound exit to the 169/General Mills Blvd C/D road was made a 2-lane exit, with some odd signage on the approach.

- Since my last time in the area, MnDOT has replaced a bridge on US 169 just north of Minnetonka Blvd. This may not seem like much, but the bridge project included a full inside shoulder plus a full-width auxiliary lane, both of which are significant here as US 169 follows what used to be a mid-60s-vintage county freeway (former CSAH 18).

- Hennepin County has built an Excelsior Blvd/Jackson Ave/Milwaukee St 4-leg intersection in eastern Hopkins. Excelsior Blvd is CSAH 3, and thus falls under county control. Milwaukee St (former CR 63) and Jackson Ave used to meet Excelsior Blvd at separate intersections on either side of an active TC&W (Twin Cities and Western) rail line. Of note is that the new standard 4-leg intersection has the rail line running diagonally across it. Even moreso, the left turn lanes from eastbound Excelsior to Jackson Ave are both separated from the main lanes but also have a total of five traffic signal heads controlling the movement. First time I've seen 5 left turn signal heads for a single left turn.

- Construction is well underway on the "temporary 3rd lane" on MN 100 between Excelsior Blvd and I-394. This temporary lane will utilize the shoulder as much as possible, but will require narrower lane widths to get under some historic bridges along MN 100 at Minnetonka Blvd, MN 7, and a railroad just south of MN 7. This project is considered "temporary" as the permanent (and modern standards) solution is 8 years away given the current funding situation. The project is needed to fill in a roughly 2-mile gap in what is otherwise a 6-lane freeway. By coincidence, this old 4-lane section also has the highest traffic volumes along MN 100.

- Leaving downtown St Paul to the east can be a pain at 4:30pm, with the main crunch being in the area of the US 10/61 South interchange on I-94. One thing that might help the crunch is if MnDOT could build an auxiliary lane between the eastbound on-ramp from 10/61 and the off-ramp to White Bear Ave.

- Amongst other things, with the 3rd lane project on I-94 in front of 3M headquarters in Maplewood complete, one of the advance guide signs to the eastbound exit to McKnight Rd North uses "1/5 mile" as a distance instead of the former "Exit Only" tab.

- The widening itself was done with a concrete base and asphalt overlay, plus the standard concrete median divider. It appears the project also included a 4th auxiliary lane in each direction between MN 120 and I-494/694 that I don't recall existing before.

- Checked out the Wakota Bridge construction by way of US 10/61. For most intents, construction on US 10/61 itself is completed, with only a minor lane shift at the I-494 overpass to accommodate I-494 mainline construction. The Maxwell/Bailey, Glen Rd, and CSAH 22 interchanges along 10/61 are all open. There is a 3rd lane southbound from the eastbound I-494 ramp to CSAH 22/70th St. Northbound a 3rd lane begins at CSAH 22/70th St, but is closed from Glen Rd north to accommodate 494 interchange construction. Eventually this 3rd lane will extend to the northbound offramp to Maxwell/Bailey. Speed limit on 10/61 is now 65 MPH from 494 previously had been 55 MPH between 494 and CSAH 22.

- Other Wakota news: the ramp from northbound 10/61 to westbound 494 is open, utilizing a temporary 25 MPH connection to the permanent flyover bridge over 10/61. As I discovered and mentioned in a previous thread, this ramp movement now crosses the river on the newly completed (and future westbound) bridge, merging with mainline 494 just west of Hardman Ave. As I learned, this switch to the new bridge happened the day before I crossed it, and was the first step in eventually getting all 494 traffic onto the new span, which should be done in the next 2-3 weeks.

- A few Prescott, WI notes: there is now a traffic signal at the US 10/WI 35 South junction...this did not exist previously. US 10 is now 4-lanes undivided from WI 35 South up to WI 29/35, and there is another traffic signal at US 10/WI 29/WI 35. Lastly, WisDOT is using the new "SL xx ahead" diamond warning signs in Prescott.

- Road work on the I-494 Minnesota River bridge had traffic narrowed to 2 lanes each direction (the normal is 3 lanes each way).

- MnDOT has completed what is now a standard diamond interchange on MN 77 at CSAH 53/66th St in Richfield. For a long time, this interchange was a set of buttonhook ramps to the parallel frontage roads. As part of the new runway construction at MSP, the east side of the interchange was converted to a diamond first, with the west side of the interchange now recently completed.

- Checked out the new Phalen Blvd in St. Paul. This new roadway was built to improve access to an underutilized industrial area in eastern St Paul, parallel to and just north of the Union Pacific rail line that heads east towards Hudson, WI. The new road begins at the I-35E/Pennsylvania Ave interchange and heads eastward, crossing over a rail junction then following the UP tracks eastward. As it closely parallels the UP tracks and utilizes old railroad right-of-way (except for the last half mile), it passes under several bridges, including Burr St, Edgerton St, and Arcade St. It's signed 35 MPH and is 4-lanes divided from I-35E to the Arcade St (US 61) access road, then is 2 lanes undivided to east of Earl St, then is curiously 2-lanes divided from there to the end at the Maryland Ave/Prosperity Ave intersection.

- Checked out I-494 reconstruction/widening in the southwest metro. Construction was completed about a year or so ago between MN 100 and MN 5 West, and this section is nice...6 through lanes, several auxiliary lanes, and it even features a new eastbound off-loop to CSAH 28/East Bush Lake Rd. From MN 5 West to I-394/US 12, mainline paving was complete...there was still some work going on with inside shoulder paving, the median barrier, and the ramps at MN 7. This should be close to wrapping up...indeed the west-side ramps at MN 7 reopened about a week and a half ago. North of 394, some modifications were made to the outside shoulder to allow 6 lanes to continue up to MN 55...the segment from Carlson Pkwy to MN 55 was 6-laned about 15 years ago.

- Two odd items found in the construction was a temporary concrete plant set up in the southeast quadrant of the 494/7 interchange. The other odd item was the southbound overhead sign at MN 62/CSAH 62. The exit signage was like this: (MN 62 shield) (sideright arrow) (CSAH 62 pentagon shield) (sideright arrow). Why they needed separate arrows for each shield is beyond me.

- Took a look at the US 12 Long Lake Bypass construction from the Brown Rd and Old Crystal Bay Rd overpasses. Grading is complete and it looks like they're starting to lay the base. Unfortunately, between proximity to the parallel BNSF tracks, plus retaining walls on the north side, there isn't enough room to be able to widen it to 4 lanes should the need arrive (and IMO it will). Also of note, there was *NO* work being done on either end of the bypass....also unfortunate as these endpoints, which were originally going to be interchanges, will likely be at-grade intersections instead due to unforseen soil problems along the bypass and a lack of funding.

- Further west, MnDOT is doing some channelization and turn lane construction on US 12 in eastern Maple Plain.

- MnDOT is very slowly extending the 4-lane section on MN 55 westward. It now extends to CR 118/Arrowhead Dr in Medina...about a mile further than it did a few years ago.

- With completion of the Anderson Lakes Pkwy and CSAH 1/Pioneer Trl interchanges on US 169 in Eden Prairie/Bloomington, US 169 is now 65 MPH from about 1/2 mile north of Anderson Lakes Pkwy southward.

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