The addition of a third lane between St. Cloud and Monticello has been a boon when it comes to keeping traffic moving in the area. Soon, I-94 will expand to (at least) three lanes from central Minnesota all the way to Rogers.

However, there is a spot in Monticello where there appears to be two unused lanes every day. Why are they there? Why can't we use them for additional traffic relief?

As it turns out the lanes are officially called MnRoad and they are used for testing different materials and substances for use on our roadways. The project took three years to construct between 1990 and 1993. According to MnDOT, the project "finds ways to make roads last longer, perform better, cost less to build and maintain, be built faster, and have minimal impact on the environment."


In the 1980s, the Minnesota Department of Transportation explored the idea of a Cold Regions Pavement Research Test Facility. This led to a task force that consisted of MnDOT engineers and officials, Federal Highway Administration and Strategic Highway Research Program administrators, industry representatives and university experts.


In May 1987, the task force developed proposed interstate and low-volume test section plans. With the assistance of Dr. Matt Witczak and MnDOT engineers, fourteen original research objectives were developed.


MnROAD was constructed from 1990 through 1993 at a cost of $25 million funded by state and federal sources. A partnership between Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board provided the majority of the operations funding for the first ten years. Over the years researchers from around the nation and the world have utilized the MnROAD facilities and data.

The project includes a storage building, weather station, workshop and a low-volume road in addition to the two lanes of interstate.


Interestingly, while the project is funded partially through MnDOT, several other states also contribute financially to MnROAD including California, Washington, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, Mississippi and Massachusetts.

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