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Whew! Less road work expected

With the Lester River Bridge work done in east Duluth and a smaller project scale on Interstate 35, there should be fewer road construction traffic headaches for North Shore residents and visitors this summer. Forum Newspapers

While the recent blizzard warning may make it difficult to believe, another season of road construction is right around the corner with Duluth's Interstate 35 Mega Project scheduled to begin April 4.

The good news is it may be less disruptive this season because, instead of 10 miles of road under construction, the work will be limited to three miles between Central and Garfield avenues.

And for residents and tourists on the North Shore, there won't be a major detour on the east end of Duluth to contend with simultaneously.

Work on the Lester River Bridge near the Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce information booth wrapped up last fall and no closures of London Road are expected this summer.

The majority of I-35 work will be in west Duluth and southward toward the Twin Cities area.

"It's the area where all the holes are," said Roberta Dwyer, Minnesota Department of Transportation project manager. "It's a much more confined area."

With 60 percent of the $66.8 million project complete, the remaining work includes replacing bridges at the ore docks and the New Page paper mill and replacing pavement from 46th Avenue West to the can of worms. Bridge repair and painting will occur at the can of worms, and pavement will be replaced on the Cody Street ramps.

Also this year, the roads that are reduced to a single lane will have shoulders this year, making the drive less perilous.

"I think it will be a little easier overall," Dwyer said.

With multiple ramp closures scheduled, motorists again are encouraged to avoid I-35 if possible.

"We're so appreciative of people taking local streets and their patience with the project," Dwyer said. "We had a great safety record last year with people and traffic. We had few incidents and overall very little congestion."

Through funding from MnDOT, the Duluth Transit Authority again will offer its free express service between western Duluth neighborhoods and downtown. This year, there will only be one park-and-ride lot at the Lake Superior Zoo, Dwyer said.

Ramps will be closed from April to October in the following locations:

- Northbound I-35 to U.S. Highway 2 (Bong Bridge)

- Southbound I-35 to 27th Avenue West

- Southbound U.S. Highway 53 to southbound I-35

- Northbound I-535 to southbound I-35

Other ramp closures will take place for shorter periods of time throughout the season. Information about timing can be found at

In addition to discussing the Duluth project this week, MnDOT officials gave an overview of the 10 other I-35 construction projects that will affect travel between Duluth and the Twin Cities area this season.

"It's not just Duluth we have to deal with this year," Dwyer said.

With much of the work taking place between Duluth and Hinckley, Dwyer suggests motorists plan ahead and use alternate routes. She also said the bulk of the projects will last the entire construction season.

"It hasn't been this busy for a long time," she said.

There is light at the end of the tunnel as Dwyer said work scheduled for 2012 on the mega project largely has been rolled into this year's work. That means next year there should be little to no disruptions from construction on I-35.