J-turn project starts Monday

First phase will close access to Lyon and Clarice from Highway 23

Photo by Deb Gau Electronic signs along Highway 23 in Marshall are warning motorists that construction work will start near both Clarice Avenue and Lyon Street next week. A restricted turn lane and a J-turn will be built to improve safety at the two intersections.

MARSHALL — Construction for a second “J-turn” intersection in Marshall will begin Monday. Motorists should be prepared for temporary lane closures on Highway 23, and for detours on Lyon Street and Clarice Avenue, speakers at Tuesday’s Marshall City Council meeting said.

Representatives of the Minnesota Department of Transportation outlined the construction plan for a reduced-conflict intersection at Highway 23 and Lyon Street. However, council members also pushed back with criticism for how MnDOT has notified local businesses and residents about construction.

Council member Steven Meister said he had been approached by one local business owner near the Lyon Street/Highway 23 intersection who hadn’t been informed about the planned construction.

“I would expect the onus would be on the state to reach out to the business owners,” Meister said.

A public information meeting on the planned reduced-conflict intersection, or “J-turn,” was also held Tuesday evening at the Marshall-Lyon County Library. Presenter Leif Garnass, of SRF Consulting, said MnDOT had been working with business owners affected by construction, and helping them apply detour signage.

The plans for a reduced-conflict intersection at the intersection of Highway 23 and Lyon Street came about after a 2016 safety study on the Highway 23 corridor in Marshall. Besides safety at the intersections of Highway 23 and Saratoga Street, where a J-turn has already been built, the study identified the intersections of Highway 23 and Lyon Street, Highway 23 and Clarice Avenue, and Highway 23 and Lyon County Road 7 as priorities, Garnass said.

Construction of a reduced-conflict intersection is planned at the Highway 23/County 7 intersection next year, he said.

A reduced-conflict intersection is designed to cut down on right-angle crashes caused by vehicles crossing lanes of oncoming traffic. Instead, vehicles use a system of turn lanes and U-turn lanes to get across the intersection or make a left turn.

“(Reduced-conflict intersections) have been proven to essentially eliminate these types of crashes. Also with crashes, the severity has gone way down,” with a reduction in injuries, Garnass said.

Starting Monday, the new construction will include a J-turn at the intersection of Highway 23 and Lyon Street. A restricted turn lane will also be built at the intersection of Highway 23 and Clarice Avenue to prevent drivers on Clarice from making left turns onto Highway 23, Garnass said.

Construction at the Lyon Street and Clarice Avenue intersections is expected to continue through October, Garnass said.

“The project will be essentially constructed in two phases,” Garnass said. “The first phase, we will be closing access to Lyon Street and to Clarice from Highway 23, so you won’t be able to access those two roadways from 23.”

Traffic on Highway 23 will be limited to one lane in each direction during construction, he said. The outside lanes will be under construction in the first phase of the project, and the inside lanes will be under construction in the second phase.

While Highway 23 will stay open during construction, motorists on Lyon Street and Clarice Avenue should expect detours. Motorists trying to get onto Highway 23 from Lyon Street should take Jewett Street and Minnesota Highway 19; or 270th Street, 280th Avenue, and Highway 19. Motorists trying to get onto Highway 23 from Clarice Avenue should take Boyer Drive and U.S. Highway 59.

Garnass said the detours should be in place from Aug.13 until after Labor Day. However, council member David Sturrock pressed Garnass for more specific ending dates on both the detours and construction. Labor Day is Sept. 3, but the slide presentation council members got Tuesday said the Lyon Street intersection would be closed through the week of Sept. 17.

“You say the week of September 17. That could be as late as Friday the 21st, so I’m looking to give some clarity,” Sturrock said.

Garnass said, based on the contractors’ schedules, “That’s as clear as I can get … Ideally, we’d like to get it (open) shortly after Labor Day.”

Council member James Lozinski asked if the speed limit in the construction zone would be reduced.

“The current plan is not to reduce the speed through the construction zone,” Garnass said. Lozinski followed up by asking if MnDOT could request extra State Patrol speed enforcement during construction.

“This is obviously a concern for us,” said Mandi Lighthizer-Schmide, director of public engagement for MnDOT District 8. She said concrete barriers would be placed around construction, which tends to make people slow down. Plus, she said, “Both our lead inspector and secondary inspector have committed to really watching what’s happening out there in the work zone and communicating if they’re seeing a problem.”

Lighthizer-Schmidt said MnDOT does work with the State Patrol, although it can’t tell the State Patrol what to do in terms of enforcement.