The Minnesota Department of Transportation will help with frustrating Interstate 494 commutes in 2018.

Improvements are being designed to help alleviate westbound stacking on the Wakota Bridge by continuing the lane that drops at Hardman Avenue and continuing it to the Highway 52 exit.

“I know you’re very well aware that in the morning sometimes in the Newport area it can get a little tough, traffic starts slowing down as it starts to back up across the Wakota bridge, backs up that ramp, and then backs up toward the Glen Road interchange,” MnDOT east area manager Adam Josephson told the Cottage Grove City Council Oct. 5.

Project manager Mohammad Dehdashti said the bulk of the project will consist of widening a westbound lane between Blaine Avenue and Hardman Avenue, along with some rehabilitation work.

“There’s a backup that goes into 61 from 494 right now during a.m. peak hours, and traffic folks did some studies,” he said. “Right now we have five lanes going across the Wakota Bridge westbound, and one of those drops at Hartman, another drops at Concord, so it becomes three lanes to [Highway] 52. So what this project’s going to do is continue the auxiliary lane that currently drops at Concord and hook it up at 52, and studies show that if you do that it should bring the traffic to a free flow situation.”

MnDOT is planning to start construction on I-494 in spring 2018 and complete it by that fall.

Final designs will be done over the next few months.

“The initial start of it is the lane drops on that west side of the bridge,” Dehdashti said. “Volume dropping with those ramps is less than we needed. The ramp traffic will break up as well and flow freely (after construction).”

The project cost estimate is $18.7 million.

“You’re going to invest money in here and I think that’s the right thing to do,” Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said.