by Dennis Dalman
Roadways near Epic Center in south Sartell continue to be an ever-changing tangle of closures, detours and bypasses because of the ambitious “Diverging Diamond” interchange construction.
There have been temporary lane closures on Minnesota Highway 15 during non-rush-hour times. There have also been detours for Stearns C.R. 120 and other places. Through the rest of the summer, all northbound and southbound traffic on Highway 15 is being diverted to bypass roads constructed at the edges of the project.
The $10-million project, the first of its kind in the state, is expected to be completed this November. It’s a joint project among Stearns County, Sartell and St. Cloud.
So far, there have been no problems or complaints, said Tim Paul, MnDOT supervisor of projects, who is based in St. Cloud.
“We were three weeks behind because of the late spring,” Paul said, “but we’ve made up for about one of those weeks. We’re just about right on track.”
Last week, 300 square yards of concrete were poured for the bridge-work. Also last week, contractors started hauling 160,000 square yards of dirt from the site, to be placed on a lot near Viking Coca-Cola in St. Cloud. The massive concrete work is needed for the C.R. 120 bridge that will cross Highway 15 from east to west. Highway 15 is being lowered 15 feet where it will go under the bridge. That is why so much dirt is being removed, Paul explained.
“There’s a lot of interesting things going on at the site,” Paul said. “That’s why I advise people to follow the speed limit there (45 mph) and try not to look at what’s going on (construction methods). It’s best to keep their eyes on the road.”
Paul said there are two divergent-diamond interchanges in Missouri. Both have had excellent records for safety and ease of operation.
To avoid hassles at the construction area, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials are advising motorists to avoid – if possible – traveling on Highway 15 during the most congested times. Those times, for the northbound lane, are from 6:30-8 a.m. and from 3-6:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; and southbound from 6:30-8 a.m. Mondays-Fridays.
As the complex project proceeds, there will be ever-varying closures, detours and rerouted traffic, so MnDOT officials are advising motorists to become vigilant for changes. Signs will be clearly posted so if motorists keep an eye out and slow down, there should be no safety concerns, officials noted.
The site by Epic Center was chosen two years ago as an ideal site for a diverging-diamond interchange because of the many roads in the area and the hugely increasing amount of traffic in the area. The construction of Epic Center (Walmart and Sam’s Club) along Highway 15 increased traffic, and the ever-growing medical facilities in south Sartell and north St. Cloud also caused a steady increase in traffic and road-building.
A divergent-diamond interchange is one on which vehicles, when turning left, never have to cross the path of oncoming traffic. Such interchanges have been proven to dramatically decrease the chance for accidents, especially serious ones. It’s also safer for pedestrians because a walking ramp, with barriers, will be constructed to cross Highway 15 on an “island” portion of the middle of the bridge across Highway 15.
When the interchange is completed, there will be a widespread communication effort by MnDOT to show motorists how to navigate the new configurations.