CLAREMONT — If you've been wondering what's happening with the U.S. Highway 14 construction project west from Dodge Center to Owatonna, the Minnesota Department of Transportation answered questions Wednesday in a pair of virtual meetings.
"Much of the work has taken place away from the current Highway 14, so it's not as evident," said Tory Thompson, MnDOT District 6 project manager.
MnDOT has charted a new path for Highway 14, with much of the new roadway being built about a mile south of the current Highway 14. But motorists will get a good look at the construction by November as most of the work — and the whole length of the new Highway 14 — is scheduled to be completed by late fall.
The new highway will be four lanes from Owatonna to Dodge Center, with several new interchanges and cross-over bridges being built.
In 2020, MnDOT crews began work on the section stretching from Dodge County Road 3 on the east side of Claremont and running along the path roughly where 630th Street lay heading west before curving north to run along the south side of the railroad tracks. That section of the project terminates west of 54th Avenue Southeast in Owatonna, where the highway is already four lanes.
Along with the road paving and roadbed laying that happened in 2020, there were three bridges that saw construction last year. At Dodge County Road 1 south of Claremont, the one bridge that was completed, the county road now passes over the new section of Highway 14. A second overpass at Steele County Road 16 was partially completed and is due to be finished this summer.
The third bridge is part of an interchange at Dodge CR 3. That interchange will include roundabouts at both ends.
The other interchange that is part of the project will be constructed at Minnesota Highway 56 on the south end of Dodge Center. Don Demers, a design manager with contractor SRF, said the roundabouts were engineered to handle oversized semi truck traffic and agricultural equipment including combines with a width of up to 17.5 feet. He said two combines would have clearance to cross the bridge in opposite directions at the same time.
"Both of these interchanges were carefully analyzed to make sure truck and farm equipment could navigate them," he said.
In addition to the interchange at Highway 56, there will be a bridge just north of the interchange to carry traffic over the railroad tracks as they come into Dodge Center.
The Highway 56 bridges, plus the new section of road from Dodge CR 3 then east through Dodge Center, will begin and be completed in 2021, Thompson said.
As for the old Highway 14, MnDOT District 6 spokesman Mike Dougherty said that will revert to the counties when the project is done.
"We'll turn those back to Dodge and Steele counties," he said. "It'll be good for the ethanol traffic at the Alcorn plant in Claremont. There will still be traffic, but not at the level of a state highway."
MnDOT projects across Southeast Minnesota
In addition to the U.S. Highway 14 project, there are several planned MnDOT projects that will cause delays and detours around the region.