Commuters who travel in and around Long Lake should plan to spend some extra time on the road for the next few weeks.
Construction of a raised median on Highway 12 will lead to the highway being closed for about three weeks. The closure will begin at 12:01 a.m., Monday, Oct. 17, and will affect the Long Lake bypass area of the highway, from Wayzata Boulevard W. near the Long Lake/Wayzata border to County Road 6 near the Orono/Maple Plain border.
The detour will take motorists on County Road 112 (old Highway 12). Minnesota Department of Transportation officials are warning drivers to expect “significant delays.”
Highway 12 has been called the most dangerous highway in the state, and this project is aimed at making it safer. The two-foot-eight-inch tall median will prevent crossover crashes and connect into the barrier that already exists on the east and west sides of the project, MnDOT Public Affairs Coordinator Susan Youngs said.
The full three-week closure is new to the project plans. A few months ago, MnDOT officials said the goal was to keep the highway open to drivers during the day, but that full closures would be needed at night and over a couple of weekends. Youngs said the original plan proved too costly.
“The first time the project was bid, the cost of the project came in too high. This was due to reopening the roadway each morning for traffic,” she said. “In order to keep the costs down for how much money we have budgeted for this project, we had to re-bid the project and that included closing the roadway until the work was completed.”
The full closure will allow the median barrier to be built as safely and quickly as possible, Youngs said.
“It is unsafe for the workers to be installing the median barrier with traffic moving in either direction,” she said. “By shutting the road down, the contractor will now be able to mobilize all of the equipment on-site and continue to work until the project is completed. With not reopening the roadway, the contractor will be able to have two shifts working extended hours in order to get the work done quickly.”
People have been demanding that action be taken to improve safety on Highway 12 and those calls became particularly loud after the last session of the Minnesota Legislature ended. The transportation bill that wasn’t passed during the session included $15 million for Highway 12. That money would have realigned the intersections with County Road 92 and County Road 90 in Independence and made additional safety improvements at the County Road 90 intersection. The bill also included funds for the median barrier.
After the session, MnDOT officials announced they found other funding sources for the left-turn lanes at County Road 92 and the median barrier. The turn lanes were installed over the summer at a cost of approximately $900,000. The barrier is expected to cost about $2.3 million. About 90 percent of that will be paid for with Federal Highway Safety Improvement funds with the remainder coming from the state, Youngs said.
The median will be the last Highway 12 project for the year, but Youngs said that MnDOT officials are developing plans for future improvements along the highway from County Road 6 west to County Line Road in Delano. Right now, though, there is no funding for those projects. She said the planning is underway in case state or federal money becomes available in the future.