ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota drivers had best prepare for brake lights and orange cones, as crews are embarking on $1 billion in 2017 state road and bridge projects. 

State Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle on Thursday kicked off this year's road construction season, describing 211 projects, some of which are already underway. The goal with all of them is to keep the state’s roads and bridges in good working condition, improve safety for motorists and support thousands of construction jobs across the state. 

RELATED: MnDOT releases entire list of 2017 road construction projects

“While this year’s program is comparable in dollar value to last year’s, we are seeing fewer projects. And, in the coming years, we will also see the funding that is available to invest will decrease because of inflation and flattening revenue streams,” Zelle said.

Major work planned in the Twin Cities metro area for 2017 includes projects on:

  • Interstate 94, Minneapolis to Brooklyn Center
  • I-94, St. Paul to Maplewood
  • I-35W/Lake Street in Minneapolis
  • Highway 169
  • I-694 in Arden Hills, Shoreview, Vadnais Heights and Little Canada 

The I-94 project includes a $46 million resurfacing and fixing more than 50 bridges between Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center. The state also plans to complete the addition of another lane to eastbound Interstate 694 in northern suburbs and resurfacing another stretch of Interstate 94 between St. Paul and Maplewood.

A 5-mile repaving of Interstate 35 around Forest Lake will reduce freeway traffic to two lanes starting in July.

MnDOT is also anticipating the completion of the St. Croix River Crossing bridge project, and the relocation of Highway 53 in Virginia.

While the focus of Thursday's news conference was the current construction year, Zelle also made sure to express concern about  the long term future of Minnesota's roads and how we will keep them in good shape. The commissioner says the most recent 20-year Minnesota highway investment plan forecasts an $18 billion dollar gap between anticipated revenue and what MnDOT will need to keep the transportation system operating safely. 

“With more than half of our state roads older than 50 years, and 40 percent of our bridges more than 40 years old, the need is outpacing available resources," Zelle asserted. "It’s important that legislators work together to find a long-term, sustainable funding solution this year so the transportation system does not continue to degrade.”

As the busy season cranks up MnDOT is reminding drivers that navigating construction zones is not business as usual. Drivers are reminded to:

  • Check for up-to-date information about traffic and road conditions 
  • Minimize distractions (e.g., don’t use cell phones or eat or drink while driving)
  • Follow posted speed limits; fines double in work zones
  • Expect delays, especially during peak travel times