Three U.S. Highway 14 intersections between Rochester and Byron are being eyed for temporary changes next year as planning for new interchanges remains in the works.

Potential changes range from closing the median at Seventh Street to creating reduced-conflict intersections, also known as J-turns.

“They are minimally expensive fixes that could carry the short term for safety until you can get a full interchange built or changes in access,” said Mike Dougherty, Minnesota Department of Transportation District 6’s director of public engagement and communications.

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He said the state is weighing a couple of options at the intersections of Seventh Street, Olmsted County Road 2 and Olmsted County Road 44.

“These are three intersections slated for some kind of fix,” he said, adding that a March 16 virtual public meeting is planned to discuss options.

Traffic maneuvers through the intersection of Hwy. 14 and Olmsted County Road 44 west of Rochester on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020.  (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)
Traffic maneuvers through the intersection of Hwy. 14 and Olmsted County Road 44 west of Rochester on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

The potential installation of traditional J-turns at County Road 3 would require drivers who want to cross a portion or all of the four-lane highway take a right turn with traffic and then make a U-turn down the road to either head in the desired direction or make another left turn to effectively cross the intersection.

A modified version is possible for the intersection with Olmsted County Road 44, formerly known as County Road 104.

Dougherty said the County Road 44 proposal would close the median and only allow a right turn for traffic coming from the county road at the north of the intersection. Eastbound traffic could be given access to a J-turn, which will provide a way to get to County Road 44.

“That’s where the heaviest traffic turns were,” he said, noting that drivers wanting to head to Rochester from north of Highway 14 would have a safe route by heading north on County Road 44.

He said the other option for the intersection is closing the median altogether.

The proposed changes were initially slated for 2024, but Dougherty said $1.2 million for the work became available, allowing the projects to move forward by two years as state and local officials continue working toward long-term fixes.

State lawmakers approved funds last year to start planning for a proposed interchange at the County Road 44 intersection, which is expected to help spur a future project expected to cost $40 million.

Dougherty said temporary adjustments are still being planned, so input during the March 16 virtual meeting will be used to address any concerns.

“Obviously, there are some small inconveniences for folks, but overall we feel like these solutions address safety, which takes a bigger priority,” he said. “Still, we want to hear from folks and note it’s a temporary solution with an eye toward an interchange eventually.”

The hourlong online meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be accessed through the the “meetings” tab on the project website at https://tinyurl.com/t7dkbrxk

A recording of the meeting will also be posted on the project website for people unable to attend the live virtual meeting.