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308 Minnesota construction projects planned

ST. PAUL -- State road repair projects are about to step into proverbial high gear, and there are a lot of them.

That might not always be the case.

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle called the state’s $1.1 billion effort this year an “amazingly robust construction program,” but the list of 308 projects will probably be the next-to-last of its size, unless state and federal spigots free up more highway dollars.

“That’s … like building a Vikings stadium all in one construction season,” Zelle said. “We expect to have maybe a similar size next year.”

But with deteriorating roads and bridges and no significant growth in spending, he cautioned, future repair efforts will be hampered unless lawmakers find “long-term, sustainable transportation funding.”

Of the 308 state projects, 74 are within the Twin Cities metro area, and 194 will roll out in greater Minnesota, including resurfacing on Minnesota 1 in Ely. Another 40 projects will improve railroad crossings and runways and terminals at regional airports.

From highway bridges to traffic signals, MnDOT owns 80 percent of the transportation assets in the state, Deputy Commissioner Sue Mulvihill said Thursday as the agency rolled out its 2014 construction plans.

Given funding constraints, construction money is mostly being dedicated toward maintaining and repaving what already exists than to building new roads and interchanges, Zelle said.

Even so, a rough winter has made the spring thaw especially rocky, and older roads are showing their age.

“We have a pothole issue throughout the state,” Zelle said. “It really indicates that the underlying condition of our infrastructure needs a long-term solution.”

New technique

Some of the biggest projects are in the east metro, including new MnPASS carpool lanes along Interstate 35 north of downtown St. Paul. Along the same highway, a new bridge will literally be slid into place at Larpenteur Avenue in late June. The technique has not been tried in Minnesota but is expected to cut construction time in half.

Project manager David Herzog said roughly 3.65 million pounds of fully constructed beams and bridge decking will be lifted with a hydraulic jack and inserted into the vacant space on sliding pads. Ames Construction proposed the method, which has been tried in Utah.

Costs will be comparable or slightly higher than traditional construction methods, but overall construction time, and therefore traffic disruption, will be cut in half — to about 47 days, Herzog said. The actual bridge slide will take roughly seven hours.

It’s not the first time the state has experimented with new time-saving approaches to bridge installation. The Maryland Avenue bridge over I-35E was rolled into place two years ago by a giant remote-controlled transporter, and a similar approach using a barge was used to install the new U.S. 61 river bridge in Hastings.

Among this year’s projects, state officials also highlighted the new bridge to Wisconsin over the St. Croix River in Oak Park Heights, ongoing replacement of the Lafayette/U.S. 52 Bridge and Cayuga interchange projects in downtown St. Paul, median and noise wall construction along U.S. 10 and County Road 96 in Arden Hills and resurfacing of U.S. 61 in White Bear.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.