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Money matched for more Hwy. 33 changes

 

January 3, 2020

Top Diagram: To cross a four-lane highway at a J-turn, turn right and use a left-hand turn lane to come back to the intersection and turn right.

A Cloquet highway project is the only one of five state grants announced Monday located outside the Twin Cities area.

The Cloquet project will create "J-turns" on Minnesota Highway 33 where it intersects on the south end of Gillette Road (near the Department of Natural Resources building) in the city's busy retail corridor off Interstate 35. Currently cars can cross over Highway 33 from frontage roads on both sides of the highway, and there is space in the center for one car to wait in the middle. A new "reduced conflict intersection" will force drivers leaving both frontage roads to turn right and then use a turn lane farther down the highway to go the other direction or cross the highway. It prevents drivers from crossing all four highway lanes at once.

MnDOT expects the project to be started and completed in 2022.

Cloquet community development director Holly Hansen said the city conducted a study of the intersection in 2018 and evaluated numerous options, including a second roundabout along 33. She said they decided the J-turn option was best, which engineers say is the safest option while improving the flow of traffic.

"There's a history of accidents there, although they're not as severe as the accidents that used to happen on Hwy. 33 where the roundabout is now," she said. "But [the intersection] doesn't function. People pull out from there all the time. Bottom line, you're eliminating the issue where you can go all the way across."

State funding for the project totals $665,000, with Cloquet committing $285,000 and

MnDOT covering the costs of designing the project.

The Cloquet project rated high in how MnDOT determines need for a project. It scored an 86 out of 100 points of criteria, the second-highest rating of the five projects.

The changes will enhance both safety and business opportunities, the community development director stressed. In a summary of the proposed Transportation Economic Development (TED) project, city officials described the ongoing transition of the south Highway 33 corridor from a roadway of rural homes into a "concentrated hub of commercial retail and office development." It cited the $3.14 million MCCU building and the coming Essentia Health Medical Clinic as developments that are driving more traffic to the area. The changes will improve safety and create a better environment for development along that part of Hwy 33, the TED grant application states.

Bottom Diagram: To make a left at a J-turn, drivers turn right and use a turn lane down the highway to make the left.

"That whole area is prime for economic development," Hanson said, noting that there is some flexibility in case a better design comes up. "And it's pretty cool that Cloquet was able to leverage a state pot of funding ... like we did for the roundabout. We believe it's a good project and it will set the corridor up for safe good development projects in the future."

A MnDOT press release said the five TED awards announced Monday are designed to "help support growing industry and businesses, leverage private funding and improve the transportation system for all users."

The five projects will receive a total of $18 million as part of the state's Transportation Economic Development Program. This year's TED funds help leverage federal, state, local and private funding for a total construction program of $124 million.

 
 

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