by Mike Knaak
The constant thump, thump, thump of tires crossing cracks felt by drivers on CR 75 will end after a massive resurfacing project scheduled this summer.
Plans call for a new road surface as well as safety and drainage improvements from just west of St. Joseph at the Interstate Highway 94 split through the city to the 15th Avenue/CR 81 intersection in Waite Park.
County officials are waiting for federal approval so work can begin in June on the 5.7-mile stretch. About half of the $10 million project will be federally funded with the other half coming from the state-aid-construction fund.
The work will begin by replacing traffic signals with temporary lights and building crossover lanes.
During the entire project, the four-lane road will be reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction. The current road surface will be removed and replaced with a 7-inch bituminous surface.
All traffic will be moved to westbound lanes while the eastbound lanes are replaced.
Then traffic will move to the new eastbound lanes while the westbound work is completed.
During construction, there will still be left- and right-turn lanes where possible.
More than 24,000 vehicles use the busiest road in the county each day.
“If people have the option to take an alternate route, I would advise it,” said Jodi Teich, Stearns County engineer.
The current road surface was constructed in 1996 when about 18,000 vehicles used the highway.
“The pavement is in pretty poor condition. The amount of heavy traffic causes the road to deteriorate rapidly,” Teich said.
Improvements will be made to the turn lanes at a number of intersections.
Left-turn lanes will be constructed for drivers heading east to access the businesses on the north side of CR 75 at Old Hwy. 52.
The eastbound right-turn lane will be widened at Fourth Avenue and the pedestrian crossing will be moved to the east side of the intersection.
At CR 133, there will be a wider corner for right turns from the westbound lane and the eastbound left-turn lane will be lengthened from 400 to 800 feet.
Drivers using both CR 134 intersections will find wider corners.
Just west of the Sauk River bridge, about one mile of road surface into Waite Park will be replaced with concrete to accommodate heavier trucks and more traffic. A 6-inch-high median will be added so drivers can’t make left turns to the businesses on the north and south sides of CR 75 west of the bridge. Recently there have been seven collisions in that area, Teich said.
While the 28th Avenue intersection is rebuilt, there will be no left turns at 28th Avenue for about a week. Drivers heading west to I-94 or to Minnesota Hwy. 23 will need to detour to Hwy. 23 via Minnesota Hwy. 15 in St. Cloud.
Teich said meetings with businesses are planned to help them navigate the detours, and updates and maps will be posted on the county website.
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The project should be completed by October.
“It’s going to be a traffic nightmare, but it will be worth it when we get it done,” Teich said. “We have to do it right.”