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MnDOT plans $25 million project to upgrade I-90/Highway 52 interchange

New bridge will make traffic from Rochester heading east move easier

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MnDOT I-90 and Highway 52 Project.png
The map shows the proposed work that would be done to upgrade the interchange at U.S. Highway 52 and Interstate 90 in southeast Rochester. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is expecting the project construction to take place in 2024 and 2025.
Contributed Map / Minnesota Department of Transportation

ROCHESTER — A problematic interchange on Rochester's southeast side will see some safety upgrades in 2024 and 2025.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation hosted a virtual meeting Thursday to discuss its plans to reconstruct and repave the interchange at U.S. Highway 52 and Interstate 90.

The $25 million project will see both I-90 bridges over Highway 52 replaced plus a realignment of the on- and off-ramps and loops at the interchange.

MnDOT project manger Chad Hanson said the reason for the project is to "enhance the safety and operations for passenger vehicles and the high volume of freight" that passes through the interchange each day.

Also, he noted, the I-90 bridges are well past their expected lifespan, having been constructed more than 50 years ago.

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The interchange, he said, has two crossover points. One is for traffic going from westbound I-90 to southbound Highway 52. The bigger issue is for traffic coming from Rochester looking to enter eastbound I-90.

Hanson said the interchange is known for its above-average crash rates as well as high traffic counts, especially for the aforementioned traffic departing Rochester to go east.

The crossover intersections and turn lanes lead to long vehicle queues during peak traffic times, he said.

The solution is to construct a "flyover" bridge that will allow that traffic from Rochester to exit onto a loop that travels under I-90 before the lane becomes a bridge that goes over Highway 52 as it loops to connect with the new I-90 eastbound on-ramp.

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Hanson said while that is the major change for the interchange, MnDOT also plans to realign the I-90 westbound off-ramp to avoid the way that ramp currently curves , creating a smoother transition for traffic connecting with Highway 52.

The connection to northbound Highway 52 will sweep wider and in a more continuous curve. Meanwhile, the connection to Highway 52 southbound will still lead to a crossover.

Because traffic heading south toward Chatfield is the lowest traffic count of the interchange — and with the flyover loop taking a large amount of traffic out of the interchange's traffic congestion — Hanson said the remaining lane crossovers would be safer than the current configuration.

Right now, MnDOT is still planning and engineering the project, conducting soil and subsurface testing to determine the needs for building the roadbed and support structures.

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The next step will include acquiring any land needed for right of way, he said. Public engagement will continue up through the early stages of construction.

The two-year construction timeline is, in part, due to the need to stagger the I-90 bridge replacement work over two construction seasons.

Answering questions submitted by those attending the virtual meeting, Hanson said Highway 52 will be repaved through the project zone during the project, but will not be widened to four lanes.

"Sixty percent of the southbound traffic from Highway 52 will be exiting to the flyover," Hanson said. "So, we'll retain the single lane through the interchange going southbound. (Highway) 52 transitions from a controlled-access highway to a two-lane rural road through this interchange."

Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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