MnDOT expands median barriers in southern Minn.

10:08 AM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
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Contractors install steel cables along I-35

OWATONNA, Minn. - If you're traveling between the Twin Cities and the Iowa border on Interstate 35 in the next few weeks, you can expect significant delays due to lane closures.

When it's all over, however, that stretch of I-35 will be safer and smoother.

"We appreciate everyone's patience, as we try to get these projects finished before winter," MnDOT spokesperson Kristen Kammueller told KARE.

In some spots MnDOT contractors are building new roadway from the ground up, and in other places they're repaving sections of the interstate and adding rumble strips on the shoulders.

And roughly 10 miles of southbound I-35 south of Owatonna is down to one-lane so that crews can install new steel cable median barriers.

"Those are designed to keep cars on one side of the interstate from veering over into oncoming traffic, and studies have shown they are making a difference saving lives," Kammueller explained.

The average cost of those barriers is $140,000 per mile, and MnDOT has installed them along more than 250 miles of divided highways throughout the state since the program began more than a decade ago.

Kammueller said those median barrier projects are part of Highway Safety Improvement Program, which is financed largely with federal grants. That revenue, for the most part, comes from fuel taxes, also known as user taxes.

Stretches of the interstate without barriers are prioritized, so that those that have been more prone to cross-over collisions in the past can move to top of the waiting list.

The new tension cables are installed close to one set of lanes, rather than being planted in the middle of the grass median.

According to Kammueller placing barriers in the middle of the medium subject them to corrosion from standing water. The middle of the median can also be so low that an airborne car could actually fly over the barrier.

Placing the barriers on one side of the grass strip also makes mowing those strips faster, and less expensive over the long term.

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