Two Year I-35 Construction Project Worries Businesses

Updated: 04/28/2014 10:23 PM
Created: 04/28/2014 9:59 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Construction along I-35 in Owatonna is expected to delay travelers on their way up north this summer.
But it's not just something that will impact the drive this year.
On Monday night, MnDOT officials held an open house in Owatonna to discuss a $19.2 million construction project that will begin next month.
The two-year project will replace four bridges and a roughly 2.2-mile stretch of pavement along I-35 in Owatonna.
Crews will also lengthen some entrance ramps and auxiliary lanes to make travel safer.
"They're going to get a great road,” said Mike Dougherty, a MnDOT spokesperson. “A lot more safety components once it's done, but in the meantime they have to maneuver through some things."
For the roughly 35,000 vehicles that travel I-35 every day, that maneuver means single lane traffic.
Officials said many local business owners are worried the detours may direct people away from their businesses.
"We want to make sure that we help get people to those businesses and those attractions and try to minimize that impact,” said Jennifer Libby, president of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. “Construction is frustrating and we know that."
City leaders said they're working with local businesses to offer special promotions, foster collaboration, and get info out to the public to encourage them to make the extra effort to support local business.
"We know it's painful for people, but it's going to be better for all of us,” Libby said. “It's going to be safe, and so that's why we're committed to helping ease the impact on businesses and travelers."
Lane closures begin May 12th and this year's construction is expected to be finished sometime in November.
Crews will open all lanes back up this winter before starting work on the Northbound lanes in the spring next year.

Photo: ABC 6 News