Cement shortage delays construction on Highway 65

Construction on Highway 65 hit a snag when the Minnesota Department of Transportation learned barge traffic, carrying cement necessary to reconstruct a 4-mile stretch of the highway in Fridley and Spring Lake Park, stalled on the Mississippi River.

MnDOT is halfway finished with the $9.3-million project that began June 11 and is scheduled to conclude in mid-October.

Southbound lanes reopened July 30, at which point northbound lanes, from Medtronic Parkway to County Highway 10, and the intersection at East Moore Lake Drive closed. The intersection will reopen Aug. 25.

Initially, intersections at 73rd Avenue and 81st Avenue were scheduled to shut down on Highway 65 Aug. 5, but on fairly short notice, MnDOT closed the intersection at Mississippi Street and Highway 65 instead. The intersection will reopen by Aug. 21, weather permitting.

In initial plans for Highway 65 construction, MnDOT assured Fridley and Spring Lake Park that no two adjacent intersections would close simultaneously, but the closure at Mississippi Street, adjacent to the East Moore Lake Drive intersection, will go against previous promises.

“It has been our commitment to keep every other signalized cross street open to minimize how far motorists need to travel out of their way,” said Paul Jung, north area engineer with MnDOT, in a memo to various elected officials and government and school district employees. “We regret that the unforeseen and serious problem of loss of cement supply is necessitating these changes.”

With storms in the southern United States causing high water and excess silt in the Mississippi River, barges have been unable to push north with loads of cement.

Construction crews have enough to pave some, but not all, of northbound Highway 65.

So, the decision was made to close the intersection at Mississippi Street, rather than those at 73rd and 81st streets, so that crews could complete construction south of Mississippi and reopen the road from Medtronic Parkway to the intersection as soon as possible.

MnDOT engineers do not know how long it may take to replenish cement stores. Everything hinges on the river reopening, Jung said in the memo.

“And here we thought we were ahead of schedule,” Spring Lake Park Mayor Cindy Hansen said during Monday’s city council meeting.

“It’s going to be hard on our businesses, I know that,” City Councilmember Bob Nelson said.

“This time of the year, I think people – from fighting it all summer long, the orange cones – I think they have less patience now then they did when it started,” Nelson said.

Vehicles traveling south on Highway 65 will still be able to turn right onto Mississippi Street throughout the closure.

Through traffic can follow MnDOT’s suggested detour, taking Interstate 694 to Interstate 35W to Highway 10.

Detours to access local businesses will be posted on roadways; most local traffic will be detoured to Old Central Avenue.

For more information, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/hwy65springlake/.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]