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Detour ahead: Long closure of 70th Street in Cottage Grove begins soon

More traffic changes await drivers along Keats Avenue/County Road 19 in the coming weeks. Signs have been added to the side of the road along Keats Avenue and 70th Street indicating access points for local businesses. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente

Motorists accustomed to traveling 70th Street near Keats Avenue in Cottage Grove should start looking for an alternative route.

A major construction project at that intersection soon will force the closure of a stretch of 70th (County Road 22) as it approaches Keats (County Road 19) from the west. Unlike a recent two-week closure of 70th east of Keats, the upcoming closure is expected to last up to 90 days.

Officials plan a mid-July start to the 70th closure, though an exact date has not been determined.

70th is being reconstructed near the intersection, but the key reason for the lengthy road closure is safety as crews install a large stormwater pipe. That watershed district project, which is occurring in conjunction with the road work, requires burying a section of 6-foot-diameter stormwater pipe more than 30 feet into the ground on the north side of 70th west of Keats.

"There's just really no way to keep the road open," Mindy Leadholm, a Washington County communications coordinator for the project, said of the upcoming closure.

The Washington County-led project this summer involves realigning the zigzag intersection of Keats and 70th, and altering the traffic pattern at nearby Military Road (County Road 20).

Keats is being upgraded two a two-lane road with dedicated turn lanes, and a one-lane roundabout will replace a traditional intersection at Keats and 70th.

The roundabout construction is expected to start within three weeks, said Jason Pommier, a Washington County project inspector. Traffic on Keats will temporarily be bypassed around the roundabout construction.

Additionally, when the project is over, traffic approaching Keats from Military only will be permitted to turn south. There will be no left turn from Military to Keats.

The construction along Keats and 70th has complicated access to the Almar Village gas station and businesses at the southwest corner of that intersection. Some access will remain open to the development during the project, but access points will change during different stages of the construction. To assist the businesses and their customers, the county added signs along Keats and 70th pointing out the access roads.

"During the closure we're just going to make sure those signs are visible and posted for people," Leadholm said.

Also, the city of Cottage Grove is allowing temporary increased signage for the Almar Village businesses.

Traffic on Keats will remain open throughout the project, officials said. The detour for the upcoming 70th closure will send eastbound drivers north on Jamaica Avenue and then southeast on Military, which intersects with Keats just north of 70th.

Overall, the project is expected to last into the fall. Heavy rains last month did not affect the construction schedule and the project remains on track, Leadholm said.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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