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The Drive: Will MnDOT reopen closed rest areas?

November 26, 2017 GMT

Rest areas allow travelers on long-distance trips to pull off for a quick pit stop or stretch their legs and walk the dog. Drowsy drivers can catch a few winks. Others can pick up a map or a snack. In short, state rest areas are places for the 20 million people who use them annually to get refreshed and re-energized.

Thats only if they are open. The Goose Creek rest area on northbound I-35 near Harris, Minn., in Chisago County, has been closed for construction since summer, and Drive readers wonder when its going to reopen.

Not until August or September 2018, said Rob Williams, MnDOTs rest area program manager. The project includes constructing a new main building, expanding the wastewater system and rehabbing the site at milepost 154, and its only half done.

Others asked if MnDOT will ever replace the Lake Iverson rest area on eastbound I-94 near Fergus Falls. Prone to flooding due to its high water table, it has been closed since 2009. Williams said it will be replaced, but it may take until 2022. MnDOT will have to acquire land and draw up construction plans to build a replacement rest area.

In 2018, MnDOT will add truck parking at the St. Croix Travel Information Center on westbound I-94 in Lakeland in Washington County. In 2019, the Des Moines River and Clear Lake rest areas on I-90 in the Jackson area will get new buildings and expanded truck parking. In 2020, look for a new building at the Watonwan rest area on Hwy. 60 near St. James while new pavement and more truck parking will be installed at the Hayward rest area on I-90 near Albert Lea.

New roundabout in Arden Hills

My column a few weeks back on roundabout safety generated lots of comments, and its clear drivers either love them or hate them. So motorists will be both cheering and jeering news that the metro areas newest roundabout opened Wednesday in Arden Hills.

The roundabout at the top of the ramp from northbound I-35W at County Road I was installed as part of a project carried out by MnDOT and Ramsey County in anticipation of traffic growth related to the Rice Creek Commons development. The project included permanently closing and removing the ramp from County Road I to northbound I-35W. Ramsey County improved trail access, built raised medians and new road shoulders, and constructed a new roadway between County Road H and County Road I on the east side of the freeway.

MnDOT wins road safety award

Minnesota this month was honored with a National Roadway Safety Award from the Roadway Safety Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration for its Implementation of Data Driven Safety Solutions program to reduce fatal crashes on county roads. About half the fatal crashes in Minnesota occur on county roads, even though those roads account for only 25 percent of vehicle miles traveled.

MnDOT teamed with the Minnesota County Engineers Association to develop safety plans in all 87 counties. The plans included 330 low-cost, proactive safety improvements that reduced fatalities by 25 percent. One of the improvements? A Mainline Dynamic Warning System, such as the one at the intersection of Hwy. 2 and St. Louis County Road 46, also known as Saginaw Road in Solway Township. Flashing lights alert motorists on the major highway when a vehicle on the cross road is about to enter the intersection.

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.