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Interchange, hospital will make Cannon Falls look 'completely different'

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CANNON FALLS — Construction will begin shortly on two projects in Cannon Falls that carry a combined sticker price of more than $50 million. Both figure to have an enormous economic development impact on the community.

On Friday, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials will start reviewing bids for an interchange project that will remove the final two stoplights on U.S. 52 between Rochester and the Twin Cities. The project, which is projected to cost $22.7 million, is slated to begin in July and wrap up in the fall of 2014.

Proceeding on an almost identical schedule, Mayo Clinic Health System received final approval from Mayo Clinic last week to build a $28 million medical facility on the south end of Cannon Falls. Groundbreaking for the 90,000-square-foot structure, which is in close proximity to the interchange, is scheduled for this spring. It's also expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.

"Overall, it's just a really great project to have the interchange and the hospital going on at the same time," Cannon Falls City Administrator Aaron Reeves said. "It's obviously going to help out our growth … and we're really looking forward to getting this going. In about (two years) from now, Cannon Falls will look completely different as you come up 52."

Though construction on the interchange will begin in about two months, Kristin Kammueller, of MnDOT, said Wednesday that the stoplights will be removed as one of the final phases of construction. The interchange will be built just south of the southernmost stoplight.

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The 2014 timetable still represents a significant improvement over previous projections.

The Cannon Falls project received $8.6 million from the state in 2010 through the Safety and Mobility (SAM) Interchange Program, which pushed the project forward by about seven years; it had been slated for funding in 2019.

"That SAM grant looked at safety and mobility and … getting those signals out will improve flow not only for Cannon Falls, but for everyone from Rochester to the metro who use Highway 52," Kammueller said. "This will give us an access-controlled freeway in that area."

Earlier this month, Goodhue County officially designated $4 million to help fund the interchange. The city of Cannon Falls also designated $1.34 million for the project, along with another $179,504 for related utility work in the area. Both moves have been expected for years.

Goodhue County commissioner Ron Allen called the Highway 52 Corridor Partnership "critical" for the safety of local residents.

"We have stoplights along a freeway," Allen said. "Can you imagine stopping on 35W? It's stupid."

Kammueller says construction will have a minimal effect on traffic along the highway throughout 2013, as most of the projects will focus on frontage roads. She compared the disruption to what occurred at the Elk Run interchange in Pine Island.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the new controlled highway access figures to be Mayo Clinic, which acquired the Cannon Falls facility in 2006. According to a press release issued Wednesday, the new hospital will be nearly three times larger than the existing hospital, allowing Mayo Clinic to expand its emergency medicine care, improve privacy and add technology, among other things.

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"It's really a win-win for everybody," Cannon Falls Mayor Robby Robinson said in a press release.

Mayo Clinic Health System serves 70 communities in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"This new facility will benefit the community, the region, and more importantly, our patients," said Dr. Tom Witt, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing.

"Patients want and expect high quality care that's coordinated and best meets their needs anywhere in our system," Mayo Clinic President and CEO John Noseworthy said. "This new facility will strengthen our ability to meet those expectations."

Related Topics: MAYO CLINIC
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