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YOU ASKED COLUMN - Q: What's the new construction going on just east of the Valhalla shopping center on Elton Hills Drive?

A: Late this year, a 52-unit complex called River Place Condominiums should open at that site off the southeast corner of Elton Hills Drive and Third Avenue Northwest. It's been a long time in coming; the initial grading permit was issued by city officials in September 2000. But local partner Bill Keehn says the luxury condo project is now on its way. He plans to pick up the main building permit from the city Building Safety Department this week. The condos will be in a single building with underground parking. Most are two-bedroom units featuring a great room and will cost $150,000 to $250,000, Keehn said. The partially wooded site overlooks the Zumbro River.

Q: I've always wondered what is happening at the "MN Road Research Project" near Albertville, northwest of the Twin Cities on I-94. For years, I've never seen anyone on that blocked-off section of highway and noticed that we seem to be eternally taking the "detour" section of the road.

A: The road research project has been there since August 1994 and it's still used to test pavement types and thicknesses.

Glenn Engstrom, Minnesota Department of Transportation manager of the Pavement Research Section, said there are three things there.

The first is the regular two lanes of the northbound interstate. The second is a two-lane test section and the third is a special loop open only to test vehicles.

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The idea behind the $25 million test area is to give a real-world test to various pavement materials.

MnDOT allows regular traffic on the two-lane test section 85 percent to 90 percent of the time, he said. It only closes it so DOT officials can check for wear, he said.

The loop is open only to a test semi-tractor trailer that goes 'round and 'round with a 80,000-pound load four days a week and a 102,000-pound load one day a week. That test is to determine how much more damage heavier loads will do to the road.

While the special section, buildings and sensors cost $25 million, the answers MnDOT is getting has helped it better know when to close local or state roads to heavier loads during spring thaw. That knowledge saves about $14 million a year in wear and tear on the state's 100,000 miles of roads and highways, he said.

Q: Why does Mayo Clinic insist on spelling Saint Marys Hospital without an apostrophe?

A: This is one of the imponderables of covering Mayo. The Post-Bulletin stylebook notes that Mayo insists on no abbreviation for Saint and no possessive apostrophe in Marys. Not all news organizations honor this style preference, but we do.

John Murphy, a Mayo spokesman, says the apostrophe was dropped long ago, and the rationale is that the hospital isn't literally St. Mary's, so the possessive apostrophe isn't needed. "It's just become the practice over the years," Murphy says.

Above the main Francis Tower entry on Second Street Southwest, you can see an apostrophe carved into the stone, but that's one of the last vestiges of the original punctuation.

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Got a question for You Asked? Send a letter to Jay Furst, Managing Editor, Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903, or send e-mail to furst@postbulletin.com. This week's column includes reporting by P-B staffers Bob Freund and John Weiss.

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