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Major road construction set to start, congestion indigestion feared in the north metro

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There are two seasons in Minnesota, as several jokes about winter go, and sometimes the punch line is "road construction." But come Monday, the joke will be on anyone who dare travel the roads of the suburbs north of the Twin Cities.

Seriously, folks, a question with a shorter answer might be where can you drive?

As we reported Thursday, about a mile-and-a-half span of Minnesota Highway 36 in Maplewood will close Monday for most of the summer, the according to the Pioneer Press.

Minnesota Department of Transportation will close both directions the roadway at 12 a.m. from U.S. 61 to White Bear Avenue for 75 days to replace an intersection. A posted detour will advise drivers to use I-35E and I-694 as alternative routes around the construction zone.

But now comes the news that, hey, you might not want to get on 694 either. The Star Tribune is reporting a potential "carmageddon" -- though we will refrain from such tempting terminology -- saying that "Unsuspecting drivers are headed for major traffic trouble Monday when a five-month road project begins squeezing Interstate 694. The main commuting corridor for the north metro carries 150,000 drivers a day."

Tim Harlow points out there are actually two projects affecting 694, with lane closures 24 hours a day between Hwy. 252 and I-35W. That’s on top of work already in progress on I-694 extending east from 35W to Hwy. 10, meaning the construction zone will extend 10 miles along the north metro’s main east-west corridor.

The $21 million project includes putting new decks on bridges at the 252/694/94 interchange and patching concrete and joints that have crumbled below the surface. "The road also will be ground down," according to the Strib.

It will also affect bus routes, and will probably bring additional traffic to routes such as I-494 and 35W, Hwys. 169 and 100, and Central Avenue, University Avenue and East River Road.

Civic leaders are also preparing for eastbound backups as far west as Maple Grove. Maple Grove? To Maplewood?

MnDot spokeman Ken Barnard confides to the Strib that he is "really concerned about when this project starts, about traffic delays big time" and that "It’s not going to be pleasant."

On a lighter note, Barnard offers a quip for commuters: “They are going to get to know their cars better."

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