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Cottage Grove wants bridge upgrade at Innovation Road overpass

The Highway 61 and Innovation Road interchange is proposed to become four lanes, alleviating sight line issues and accommodating growing traffic projections. Bulletin photo by Emily Buss

With new retail development set to occur along East Point Douglas Road and a number of new housing developments slated to break ground yet this year, the city of Cottage Grove is planning a major remodel of an underperforming bridge that soon might be unable to handle the pressures of projected traffic patterns.

The Highway 61 and County Highway 19 interchange, also known as the Innovation Road exit, has been a troubled spot due to poor sight lines, speed limit issues, accident data and current traffic patterns.

"(The interchange) does not have the capacity to support future growth in this area," City Engineer Jennifer Levitt said. "With the development proposed in the area, the interchange will not be able to carry the load of higher volumes of traffic."

The interchange is just south of the planned Walmart store, to be built beginning this year, and the related Shoppes at Cottage View commercial area on East Point Douglas Road.

In an effort to solicit funds for an estimated $13.5 million reconstruction project, the city is applying for a Transportation Economic Development Grant. If awarded, the grant would give the city roughly $7 million toward the improvement project. The city would cover the difference.

The engineering department has drawn preliminary plans that call for a four-lane bridge to replace the existing two-lane span. The wider bridge would better serve the city's Business Park, 3M-Cottage Grove, existing and future commercial, retail, and housing developments in the northwest quadrant of the city, Levitt said. 

The improvement is also expected to better serve a proposed Red Rock commuter rail station.

The city's application notes the improvement project would better facilitate vehicle as well as pedestrian travel and emergency vehicles, as well as help 3M-Cottage Grove enhance security at its facility adjacent to the proposed project.

This is not the first time Cottage Grove has tried for a grant to fund improvements to the intersection. In 2010, the city applied for and was denied a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, a program that awards funds to surface transportation projects as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Levitt said each year, the improvement project is up against stiff competition and has to keep in mind that "there is only a certain amount of funds available to give out, which makes the selection process that much more challenging."