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Construction begins on Cannon Falls interchange

CANNON FALLS -- Construction of a $14 million interchange at Highway 52 and County Road 24 got under way with a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, bringing the corridor one step closer to becoming an access-controlled freeway from the Twin Cities to Rochester.

The project calls for an overpass at County Road 24, as well as upgrades to nearby frontage roads and drainage structures.

The plan also includes paths for pedestrians and bicyclists who will no longer be allowed on Highway 52 once the interchange is complete.

"This has been a project that's been in the works for several years, so everyone's really excited to see it kicked off," said Greg Paulson, an assistant district engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Paulson said he first got involved with Highway 52 and County Road 24 in the early 1990s when he worked as Goodhue County engineer. A safety study conducted at the time lead to the installation of two traffic signals at the intersection.

"It was a much-needed safety improvement, but I think everyone who was involved realized it would be an interim fix," Paulson said.

MnDOT studies in 2000 and 2002 identified the intersection as a top safety and infrastructure priority, laying the groundwork for a vision of the Highway 52 corridor as a full-fledged freeway.

"And we've been working on that goal ever since," said Paulson, adding that nearly half of the 80-mile stretch of Highway 52 has been converted to freeway.

"This is a great day for Cannon Falls, Goodhue County, the state of Minnesota and anyone who travels on this highway," said County Commissioner Richard Samuelson.

He said the need for an interchange is apparent when looking at crash data collected at the intersection.

The frequency and severity of crashes at Highway 52 and County Road 24 is higher than most other intersections along the corridor, according to the MnDOT website. Between 1998 and 2002, 38 percent of crashes caused injuries.

"As an agency, we're really excited about this project," said Lt. Christina Krueger with the Minnesota State Patrol.

Krueger said the interchange should cut down on the often serious or fatal crashes that occur at the intersection.

MnDOT says traffic impacts on Highway 52 during construction will be minimal, but will include periodic lane closures when it comes time to connect the on- and off-ramps.

The interchange is expected to be completed Oct. 2014.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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