4/25/2014 7:28:00 AM Council, MnDOT will spend $33,436 on 52/24 access study
by Ken Haggerty
The Cannon Falls city council agreed at its April 15 meeting to authorize paying for half of a $33,436 "Safety Assessment" of possible alternatives to retain access on and/or off of Hwy. 52 near the Saratoga and Cannonball interchange.
The lights at the interchange are scheduled to be removed and the current on/off access eliminated this summer as part of the new construction project in the area.
Businesses in the area, including SuperAmerica, which had owners at the meeting who said they doubt they can survive two more years if the access is eliminated, have pushed the city and MnDOT to leave at least a right turn, off-only exit at the interchange.
SuperAmerica owners said MnDOT had dragged their feet on this since first approached in January. MnDOT representatives from the Rochester office indicated any new access design, even if it was approved, will not be included in this year's construction. MnDOT's Jeff Vlaminck indicated even 2016 construction for an off lane as an aggressive time frame.
Vlaminck said he's "never seen anything quite like this before; starting a study in the middle of a project that we're half-done building."
City council member LeRoy McCusker said what makes this so difficult is that business owners and the city went forward with the plans for the new overpass and major interchange ramps on the new far south location, but only because at every juncture until the very end an overpass at the north stoplights with connecting frontage roads to the new interchange were included.
Council member Bill Duncan tried to push Vlaminck for an answer on when, if ever, a northern overpass might be built. Vlaminck said only that as demand or need dictates.
Economic Development director David Maroney said MnDOT has also made it clear that if a plan for access was approved, all costs for design, engineering, right of way and constuction would be on the city.
Mayor Robby Robinson noted that MnDOT has already acquired some right of way at the northern intersection near the Subway.