OWATONNA — Motorists on roads in Dodge County will encounter detours beginning April 8 as construction begins to expand Highway 14 between Dodge Center and Owatonna.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, an open house that was originally scheduled for April to kick off construction has been postponed in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. MnDOT District 6 Director of Public Engagement and Communications Mike Doughertystated that all open houses and public meetings in relation to MnDOT projects have postponed statewide in efforts to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“We are right on schedule for construction,” Dougherty explained. “They still have to get some plans in place and approved, so that could be adjusted, but relatively everything is on track.”

Dougherty added that as of now, construction crews are working on the same elements of a project that they would be working on in March during any other years, which is largely project planning. As they continue to move toward their plan deadlines, Dougherty said that MnDOT is well aware that everything could change as the situation revolving around COVID-19 continues to develop.

“As people have seen, things can change any minute depending on the circumstances and the health experts determine needs to happen,” he said. “For now everybody is doing their work, and we will continue to announce any changes as quickly as we get the information.”

The agency-wide decision was to both postpone public gatherings in relation to projects and move forward with projects set to begin in April and May. As those projects march forward, Dougherty said that they are keeping the social distancing guidelines in mind for both MnDOT employees as well as construction crews.

“A lot of these discussions are happening right now to talk about what we can changed and what is needed to follow these guidelines,” he stated. “Obviously there are things that have to be done with multiple people for safety, so everyone is looking at all those aspects right now and stepping up or normal cleaning routines.”

Dougherty further explained that the configuration of how work can be done while still playing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 is a work in progress, and that as different restrictions continue to funnel down from both the state and federal level they continue to discuss options to keep projects moving forward. As a shelter-in-place order continues to be a potential option for Minnesota, Dougherty said that figuring out where MnDOT projects will fall on the “essential” list is top of mind.

“Essential personnel is under discussion right now as far as who that would be,” Dougherty said. “The state is working with MnDOT to discuss how someone’s roll fits into what is essential, but it’s a work in progress. This is not a situation that any of us have faced.”

“We are just doing what we know we can do, knowing that things can change depending on how the virus spreads and how the public responds to some of these orders to keep a distance,” he continued. “My guess is that probably in these upcoming weeks things will get clearer as far as timelines and what kind of work will take place.”

Motorists on Dodge County Road 1 and 630th Street will find detours south of Claremont and should follow signs to access their destinations as the Highway 14 expansion projects is underway. Crews are beginning to build a bridge on Dodge County 1 for an overpass of new Highway 14 and building a new 630th Street. Grading work west of Claremont is also expected to begin.

Signs will be posted beginning March 25 to alert motorists about the upcoming work.

The project will expand 12.5 miles of Highway 14 from two lanes to four lanes between Dodge Center and Owatonna to complete a continuous four-lane road between Mankato and Rochester. The project is intended to improve the capacity, safety, travel times and access between Rochester and Owatonna, as well as the Interstate 35 corridor. The expansion area is a new route for the highway, which will stay south of the railroad tracks on the west side of the project, travel south of Claremont and connect where the four-lane highway is west of Dodge Center

Shafer Contracting of Shafer, Minn., is the prime contractor for the $107,997,119 construction project.

Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2022. Traffic on the new Highway 14 route is expected in 2021.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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