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Commissioners Raeanne Danielowski (Sherburne County) and Darek Vetsch (Wright County) spoke about the process for selecting a future river crossing during last Tuesday’s Monticello Chamber lunch. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

Road projects ahead for Big Lake and Monticello

More than 100 business owners, community members, government officials and concerned citizens gathered at the Monticello Community Center during a Monticello Chamber lunch last Tuesday to get an update on some of the short-term and long-range road construction projects that will affect the region this year and into the future.

After introductions by Sherburne County Commissioner Raeanne Danielowski and Wright County Commissioner  Darek Vetsch, MnDOT Dist. 3B Resident Engineer Eric Rustad outlined an upcoming resurfacing project on the Mississippi Bridge on Hwy. 25 that will likely cause major headaches for drivers this summer.

Beginning July 8 and lasting through late October, the bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction to accommodate a major construction project that includes milling and resurfacing of the bridge deck, replacing expansion joints, widening sidewalks on both sides, upgrading storm water drainage and replacing streetlights.

During the project, Hwy. 25 from Big Lake will have one through lane and one turn lane onto Co. Rd. 11. Hwy. 25 in Monticello will be reduced to one lane at 3rd Street. Co. Rd. 14 in Sherburne County will have one left turn and one right/through lane. Westbound Broadway in Monticello will have one right turn lane and River Street onto Hwy. 25 will be closed.

“There will be no access on River Street. The signal will be deactivated,” said Rustad. “This is necessary for us to be able to switch the traffic from one side of the road to the other.”

Rustad said the bridge will be completely closed from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. for a minimum of three nights and up to five nights when workers replace the concrete overlay. Drivers will have to plan ahead and find another way across the river.

“The official detour will be Hwy. 10, Hwy. 101 and I-94 during those hours of night,” said Rustad.

The next is a multi-phase project that will start this year is an expansion of I-94 from four lanes to six lanes between Albertville and Monticello.

“We’re going to add a third lane in each direction. We’re going to replace the westbound bridge over Co. Rd. 19 in Albertville, widen the westbound bridge over Co. Rd. 75 and the railroad tracks in Monticello,” said Rustad.

That work will start in late July until early fall to prepare for next year’s work. Rustad said there will be lane closures and periodic night closures to set concrete beams. I-94 will be closed on the eastbound side in the spring of 2025, with all traffic diverted to the westbound side. It will be reversed in 2026.

Projects in 2026 include reconstructing the road surface on Hwy. 25 between Monticello and Buffalo, building roundabouts at Co. Rd. 37 and Catlin Street and reconstructing a new bridge/interchange on Hwy. 24/I-94 in Clearwater.

Then in 2027, MnDOT will be replacing the bridge deck on Hwy. over I-94 in Monticello.

The other major project with no set date is a river crossing between Wright and Sherburne County. Stakeholders from both counties, Monticello and surrounding townships have been meeting for years as the Hwy. 25 Coalition to look at possible connections between I-94 to Hwy. 10 to alleviate current and future traffic congestion in the Hwy. 25 corridor. That group is now known as the Central Mississippi River Coalition, (CMRP).

Angie Bersaw from Bolton & Menk said the two counties are partnering to conduct a Hwy. 25 Area Planning and Linkages (PEL) Study from now until December 2024.

The study’s purpose is to examine a range of cost-effective transportation alternatives that will relieve corridor congestion, improve vehicular mobility and safety, and address opportunities for walking and biking in the Monticello-Big Lake area.

Commissioner Vetsch said the river crossing project’s price tag will likely been in the hundreds of millions of dollars, so the CMRP is in the process of gaining non-profit lobbying status so it can look at soliciting state and federal funding once all the studies are done and a river crossing option has been developed.