Continuing our week-long travels through the Upper Midwest, day three consisted of a loop from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area south on Interstate 35 to Albert Lea, across I-90 to La Crosse and Portage, north along the I-39 & U.S. 51 corridor to Wausau and a return to the Twin Cities by way of Wisconsin 29 and I-94.
The first leg of the nearly 750-mile loop took us south along Interstate 35 through to Albert Lea. We stopped briefly in Faribault and drove a portion of the business loop, one of two for I-35 south of the Twin Cities, then continued on in rain toward Albert Lea and Interstate 90.
Two construction projects between Faribault and Albert Lea currently reduce I-35 to two-way traffic. In Owatonna bridges are being replaced and auxiliary lanes added between from the Hoffman Drive interchange (Exit 42AB) to south of Lemond Road. Another project between Ellendale (Exit 32) and Interstate 90 (Exit 13) sees concrete repaving on the southbound lanes. Both projects are expected to be complete Fall 2015.
U.S. 65 sees its beginning 0.75 miles south of I-90 at a wye interchange. Another business loop for I-35 follows U.S. 65 through the central business district of Albert Lea meeting the interstate at a folded diamond interchange (Exit 8). The U.S. highway continues 992 miles southward to its end in Clayton, Louisiana.
The final ten miles of Interstate 90 are in stark contrast to the previous 100 miles. Beyond Exit 267 the freeway straddles valleys and creeks as it descends toward the Mississippi River.
The Dresbach Bridge project will see the existing structure that carries I-90 across the Mississippi River into Wisconsin replaced with twin spans, as well as an improved interchange with adjacent U.S. 14 & 61 (Exit 276). Scheduled completion is set for sometime in 2016. The new spans are being built just to the north of the 1968 span.
The final configuration of the interchange will involve free movement between the freeway and U.S. highways, including a direct fly-under ramp from westbound I-90 to southbound U.S. 14 & 61.
Through the periodic rainfall, we dipped into La Crosse by way of U.S. 14 & 61 to take a look at downtown and visit the southern terminus of U.S. 53.
The steel truss span opened to traffic July 1940 and currently carries westbound traffic. The newer arched span opened November 2004 and takes motorists and U.S. 14 & 61 into La Crosse.
Interstate 90 continues into Wisconsin as a rural highway passing near to Bangor, Sparta, and Tomah before merging with I-94 east. Farmland graces the roadside on the first part while a wooded landscape unfolds east of Sparta.
Spanning six years and several segments, a new 31-mile U.S. 10 freeway/expressway system was completed in 2012 between Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 (Exit 165) north of Stevens Point and Marshfield. The majority of the route features limited at-grade intersections with interchanges at key points between the two destinations.
The remaining 14 miles consist of at-grade intersections with cross traffic. Only one additional interchange was constructed on this stretch and occurs at the split of Wisconsin 13 north to Marshfield.
As part of a six year overhaul, a direct freeway-to-freeway connection was built between U.S. 51 and the west branch of Wisconsin 29. Prior to completion in 2010, drivers eastbound on the state trunk highway met U.S. 51 at the Sherman Street diamond interchange.
The current exchange between Wisconsin 29 and I-94 & U.S. 12 consists of a parclo, but future plans by WisDOT call for a system to system interchange between the two corridors at a new location north of the existing one. No time table for this project has been established.
Concluding the loop back to the Twin Cities area, we traveled west on I-94 back into Minnesota and revisited portions of I-494 & I-35E through to Downtown St. Paul.
The next update will summarize the trip from Minneapolis/St. Paul northwest to Fargo, North Dakota and the Canadian border via Interstate 29.