The Rice County Board of Commissioners today approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for final design of the I-35 at Highway 19 six-legged roundabout.

County Highway Engineer Dennis Luebbe has been telling commissioners since the beginning of July the agreement was coming and said today the paperwork is still not here.

Commissioners unanimously approved moving forward once the agreement is received.

In addition commissioners unanimously approved entering into a professional services contract with Stonebrooke Engineering of Burnsville, Mn. for the final design.

Cost for the work is $319,563.44 and Luebbe stated 75 percent of the cost will be paid by the State of Minnesota.

The hope is to start construction on the project next May.  He did not give a timeline for it's completion but this is not your average roundabout.

Semi traffic alone will be interesting when they do the construction.

2017 Average Daily Traffic Counts on I-35 are the most recent public counts on the MnDOT website.

Just north of Owatonna the count on I-35 was 33,800 vehicles per day on average.

In Burnville the traffic goes up to 110,714 and north of the Minnesota River Bridge in Bloomington the count was 117,482.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a big fan of roundabouts.  They say:

Roundabouts are a safer alternative to traffic signals and stop signs. The tight circle of a roundabout forces drivers to slow down, and the most severe types of intersection crashes — right-angle, left-turn and head-on collisions — are unlikely.

Roundabouts improve traffic flow and are better for the environment. Research shows that traffic flow improves after traditional intersections are converted to roundabouts. Less idling reduces vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.

Roundabouts generally are safer for pedestrians. Pedestrians walk on sidewalks around the perimeter and cross only one direction of traffic at a time. Crossing distances are relatively short, and traffic speeds are lower than at traditional intersections.

Check out more information from IIHS here.

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