Jenny Berg / St. Cloud Times / Jan. 8, 2021
ST. CLOUD — Approximately 30,000 vehicles travel on U.S. Highway 10 and Minnesota Highway 23 each day in St. Cloud, making the intersection of the two major roadways one of the busiest in the city.
And yet the area is marred by short acceleration lanes and places with posted highway speeds of 50 mph where pedestrians frequently cross.
An upcoming 18-month project will address those concerns, replacing both Highway 23 bridges, reconfiguring the interchange ramps and constructing a bridge connecting Fourth Street on the west side of Highway 10 to the frontage road on the east side.
"This is taking into consideration all these safety challenges we've been talking about as long as I've lived in St. Cloud," said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, who has lived in the city for more than three decades. "This will be a very significant project."
The $37.7 million project is slated to begin in spring 2023 and is scheduled to be completed in fall 2024.
Construction will be staged to allow traffic in the interchange area — but traffic on Highway 10 will be reduced to one lane in each direction during the active construction season to facilitate bridge construction, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
While MnDOT is paying for most of the project, the city is responsible for about $3.6 million. Residents have the opportunity to give feedback about the project during a public hearing Monday at the St. Cloud City Council meeting.
City officials have been working with MnDOT on the project for years to address concerns from area businesses and residents who will be impacted by the construction.
The council's approval is required because the project alters local access during the project and requires the acquisition of rights of way for the revisions to Fourth Street and the frontage road on the east side of Highway 10.
"Every step of the way, we've been working with MnDOT," Kleis said. "This has really been through a lot of scrutiny."
MnDOT states the purpose of the project is to replace the 63-year-old bridges over Highway 10, address poor pavement quality, improve vehicle safety at the interchange and address bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Highway 10 from 15th Avenue Southeast to the former rail crossing north of East St. Germain Street will be reconstructed, as will Highway 23 from Lincoln Avenue to Mayhew Lake Road.
The project will lower the grade of Highway 10 to allow for the vehicle and pedestrian crossing at Fourth Street Southeast, and provide trails on both sides of Highway 23, along the east side of Highway 10 and along the new bridge.
Many pedestrians often cross Highway 10 in that area due to the proximity of grocery and retail stores on the west side of Highway 10 and hotels, apartments and shelters on the east side.
Traffic signals will be installed at the interchange ramps; existing intersections will also be improved to be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
Following completion of the project, MnDOT will be responsible for maintaining the bridge structure at Fourth Street Southeast; the city will be responsible for snow removal and minor repairs.
"There's a lot of traffic on those roads and it's only going to be greater in the future," Kleis said. "The project creates better access. It creates better safety — and it's long overdue."