Jun 19, 2012 at 8:42 am
ST. CLOUD, MN (KNSI) - For the past few years, the crossing of Highway 15 and Stearns County Road 120 has increasingly become one of the busiest, not to mention most frustrating traffic locations in the entire St. Cloud area. But that's all about to change as the Minnesota Department of Transportation is moving forward with a new diverging diamond interchange project to alleviate increased congestion.
The growth explosion of both St. Cloud and Sartell has increased traffic at that intersection by nearly 500 percent over the past decade. An increase in accidents has been seen right along with that area growth, highlighting the intersection with CR-120 as one of 15's biggest trouble spots.
"Certainly the growth in the area has contributed greatly to crashes and congestion issues, so the interchange should help to alleviate that," project manager Claudia Dumont said. "We identified some areas that needed improvement for long term capacity and safety. And the highway 15 and county road 120 interchange got some special funding related to economic development and safety criteria."
MnDOT officials see the diverging diamond as the best and most cost effective solution, one not in use anywhere else in the state. Construction supervisor Tim Paul says the new lay-out can cut delays on Highway 15 through Sartell by up to 60 percent.
"This reduces the number of signals that are required, carries traffic better, reduces the size of the bridge that will be required to carry these traffic numbers," Paul said. "We are looking into the future 20 years and look at this as being capable of handling traffic at that point."
Early phases of the construction on the ten million dollar project will begin on the project in less than three weeks, with the bulk of the work, and closures, happening next year.
"We will close down Highway 120 for a 30 day period right away in the spring, probably April and May type dates," Paul said. "We will make the connections of the temporary roadways that we will carry Highway 15 traffic on and then we will transfer the traffic onto those temporary roads, which really in essence are the ramps."
During the initial phase of the project, beginning July 9, Paul says there were be temporary lane closures to allow for the widening on 15 and the addition of the ramps needed in the project. The only major delay this construction season will be along 120 near the CentraCare campus, two new roundabouts are going in to help funnel all that traffic better.
"That is a Stearns County project they will be beginning that this summer, and completing it by fall," Paul said.
As for what exactly the new interchange will be like when finished, residents can learn more about the state's first diverging diamond interchange at an open house Tuesday.
"People coming to the open house will get to see the layout, they'll get to see video of how the new diverging interchanges work and how to drive them," Dumont said.
The meeting will run from 4:30 to 6:30 Tuesday evening at the MnDOT headquarters on 12th street north.
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