Orange cone season: MnDOT unveils $1B in 2017 road projects

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A map of construction projects around greater Minnesota
A map of construction projects around greater Minnesota planned for 2017.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Transportation

Updated 12:30 p.m. | Posted 11:52 a.m.

Get ready to slow down.

State transportation officials rolled out their big list of Minnesota seasonal road and bridge construction projects on Thursday and pleaded for patience as lanes close and orange cones go up.

Projects include a $46 million resurfacing of Interstate 94 and fixing more than 50 bridges between Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center.

A map of construction projects around the Twin Cities
A map of construction projects around the Twin Cities planned for 2017.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Transportation

A project slated for July will likely affect a lot of Minnesota cabin-goers: A five-mile stretch of Interstate 35 around Forest Lake will be reduced to two lanes for repaving.

Many of the 211 projects are already underway and will improve driver safety and employ thousands of people in construction jobs, Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle told reporters. The work is worth an estimated $1 billion.

"While this year's program is comparable in dollar value to last year's, we are seeing fewer projects," Zelle said in a statement.

He also expressed concern about the availability of future funding. MnDOT says the latest 20-year Minnesota highway investment plan forecasts an $18-billion gap between anticipated revenue and what the agency says it will need to keep the transportation system operating competitively.

Zelle made a pitch DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's transportation funding plan, which relies on a gas tax increase. House and Senate Republican oppose that approach and instead want to use existing sales tax revenue to fund road and bridge projects.

Without a deal on a long-term funding plan, "we won't be seeing this kind of robust program in future years," Zelle added.

Highlights of this year's construction season include the anticipated completion of the St. Croix River Crossing between Stillwater and St. Joseph, Wis., and the relocation of Minnesota Highway 53 in Virginia, Minn., which includes the construction of what will be the tallest bridge in Minnesota.

In the Twin Cities, drivers will need to prepare for several projects, including work along:

• Interstate 94, Minneapolis to Brooklyn Center

• I-94, St. Paul to Maplewood

• I-694 in Arden Hills, Shoreview, Vadnais Heights and Little Canada

Public safety officials reminded drivers to slow down in construction areas and stay focused on the road and road conditions, noting that 10 people were killed in work zone related crashes in 2015.