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Highway 33 roundabout nears completion

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The Highway 33 roundabout in Cloquet had residents going in circles with discussions at least a year before the project began.

According to Assistant City Engineer John Anderson, the roundabout project is nearing completion at the end of the month, depending on the weather.

The project that began May 21 came about after MnDOT officials studied the deadly intersection for several years to decide on the best course of action.

There were two fatalities between 2005 and 2015, plus five very serious accidents and much controversy about how to fix the problem.

Most of the worst accidents happened when drivers traveling south on Highway 33 attempted to turn left to drive north onto Interstate 35. The left turn sent them across oncoming traffic, often moving fast after exiting Interstate 35 to head north on Highway 33.

MnDOT officials looked at constructing an overpass, but that would have cost four times as much as the roundabout and not eliminate the possibility of deadly T-bone accidents.

Currently the majority of the road work is done. The frontage road remains closed, but the framework is ready for concrete. Both northbound and southbound I-35 ramps are open for travel, but the I-35 exits from the actual roundabout are also still blocked off with barrels.

According to the MnDOT website, the first two stages are complete and the third stage of the project is wrapping up.

"Everything has gone well and on schedule," Project Supervisor Tom Lund said. "It has been a problem-free job and the weather has cooperated."

According to the website, during Stage 3 motorists will be able to drive on the newly constructed roundabout. The frontage road and the ramp from southbound Highway 33 to northbound I-35 will still be closed to through traffic. Southbound motorists will need to exit at Highway 210 and circle back onto northbound I-35 towards Duluth.

"The roundabout will be open by middle to end of next week," Lund said. He explained the free right to northbound Highway 33 from I-35 will be closed to finish construction.

The 4th stage will begin September 17th and end with signage and striping the week of September 24th.

"We should be completely gone by the end of September," Lund said.

The project is on target with the estimated cost of $2.21 million.