Residents might be wondering about why dirt has been moved west of town and what appears to be a new road. The work going on is the fruition of a plan to create a bypass at Stearns County Road 2. City Engineer Randy Sabart said the project has been planned for years with the most physical part of the work starting this year. The county project is expected to be completed this fall.
What Stearns County wanted to do is direct increased truck traffic around St. Joseph on the west side. So, instead of CR 2 wrapping into the west side of St. Joseph, it will continue north after drivers cross under the bridge at Interstate-94 and it will connect to CR 75 in the vicinity of CR 3, Sabart said.
“There will be a brand new intersection where CR 2 and CR 3 are connecting at CR 75,” he said.
The connection point is located on the land of the former King’s Trucking site, west of Millstream Park. The bypass will bring truck traffic directly to CR 75 and it won’t route it through downtown or the College of St. Benedict area.
Specifically, the intersection at CR 3 near Millstream Park will move to the west. Construction crews are aligning CR 3 and CR 2 across from each other. The portion of CR 3 along Millstream Park will no longer be there for people to travel on from CR 75.
With increasing traffic volume, safety is always a concern. Sabart said the county also saw the project as a way to help with efficiency of moving vehicles.
Even with the new road and realignments, some things will remain. County Road 2 will be a 55 mph-road up to CR 75.
“In theory it should be a faster route for traffic that wants to go north on CR 2 and connects to CR 75,” he said.
New construction will also create a four-leg intersection between Minnesota Street and CR 2.
“All of this is new road,” he said.
The county has been developing this project for years. Though originally planned to begin in 2009, the project was delayed because the county had to acquire right-of-way for the project.
The city’s portion of the project is the construction of a detached pedestrian/bicycle trail on the east side of CR 2 that will eventually connect to the Wobegon Trail. The estimated cost to construct the trail is $346,000.
The city had to relocate some water utilities and a few water hydrants for the project because the city’s water main lies in the county’s right-of-way for the project. This work was completed earlier this year.
The road itself will still have 12-foot driving lanes and 8-foot shoulders. There will be stop conditions but no stop lights at this time. They could come later. For example drivers going west on Minnesota Street toward the I-94 interchange will have a stop sign.
At the intersection of CR 2 and CR 3, Sabart said the county is installing equipment for a future traffic signal but the intersection will have to meet traffic-signal requirements before the installation of a signal.
Sabart said initially there will be a reduction in vehicle traffic all together from people looking to bypass the city and head east to St. Cloud. But depending on the audience a reduction in vehicles can be see as a negative impact on businesses, he said.
“I think the biggest benefit will be some of the truck traffic the west side of town sees coming through town will be directed to CR 75 and north,” Sabart said.
Just west of the city, traffic volumes on Minnesota Street were measured by the state at 10,000 vehicles per day in 2009. Once in town closer to College Avenue, traffic dropped down to 6,000 vehicles per day. The new road will redirect some of this traffic volume to CR 75.
The Knife River Corp. of St. Cloud is the general contractor for the project.