6/6/2013 2:35:00 PM Finally! Overpass planned for 52/9
by Ken Haggerty
It appears a modified overpass plan for the deadly intersection of U.S. Hwy. 52 and Goodhue County 9 about seven miles south of Cannon Falls will finally be cleared and funded, possibly soon enough for 2014 construction season.
A meeting of all the major government players in the project was held at the Urland Church on May 29. MnDOT's Rochester engineers revealed a plan at the meeting for an overpass with two simpler access roads on the southeast and northwest corners of the intersection, rather than a full diamond interchange with on/off ramps at all four corners.
MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle was in attendance and indicated he thought MnDOT would be able to "stitch together the funding and get this done. The new design has an estimated cost of $8.5 million.
Zelle thought the design would score very high in the Corridor Investment Management Strategy grants due to be announced in the coming weeks.
Congressman John Kline and Derrell Turner of the Federal Highway Administration were also in attendance. Turner indicated he thought the Federal funding through another program aimed at low-cost accident reduction projects could be applied to this design. Zelle said they have been "turning over the couch cushions" and looking at some cost savings from other projects to find some dollars to steer toward this project. "Clearly, this is a priority," said Zelle,
MnDOT had planned on using those Federal funds for a reduced conflict intersection plan utilizing limited median crossings and j-turns, but after hearing from County officials and local residents who called that approach troublesome and a band-aid approach, MnDOT went back to the drawing board for an affordable alternative.
The new plan requires less right-of-way purchase, less grading of hills in the area of the intersection and has less ipact on farmland. It does allow an upgrade to a full diamond in the future if safety or traffic volume concerns arise.
The design features the addition of right-turn lanes on north-bound and south-bound Hwy. 52 when approaching the exit roads to County 9. It also has acceleration lanes (probably at least 1,700 feet) for merging onto Hwy. 52 from the County 9 access roads.
The design is still being fine tuned, but it may also include closing of Hwy. 52 median crossings at 90th Avenue, A Township gravel road and also the Hwy. 52 median crossing at southbound Goodhue County 1. Extended (probably by 200 feet) right turn lanes would also be added on southbound Hwy. 52 to westbound County 1 and on northbound Hwy. 52 to eastbound County 1. All the turn lanes by the old Edgewood Cafe median crossing could also be improved as would a right-turn lane to southbound 90th Avenue from southbound Hwy. 52.
"This is a wonderful solution," said Goodhue County Commissioner Jim Bryant. The Goodhue County Board has indicated it is willing to take on up to 20 percent of the cost of the project by a 5-0 vote.
"A clear passage across Hwy. 52 solves what this intersection needs," said Bryant. He asked if the engineers could look at making the on-ramp roads from County 9 to Hwy. 52 a little more curved to give drivers a little more of a running start when merging.
Goohue County Comm. Richard Samuelson, who Kline noted has been talking about this intersection since the first day they met, called it "an exciting day; one we've waited for a long time."
MnDOT engineers said they were leaning toward using the "design-build" process for this project. It usually improves the speed of construction. MnDOT indicated it would like to have this job ready for bids in January 2014 and completed next year. State representative Tim Kelly was assured by MnDOT that no special legislative clearance was needed for the bidding.