Officials Can't Yet Say When Stretch of 694 Closed by Washout to Reopen

December 04, 2017 06:33 PM

The Oakdale Utility Superintendent expects a water main break that caused a giant washout to be repaired by Friday. When the stretch of Interstate 694 closed as a result of the damage will reopen remains to be determined.

Shawn Nelson said about 10 people are still without water service as a result of the break, which occurred Sunday morning. He said about half the community was impacted initially, but adequate water pressure was assured to almost everyone within five hours.


RELATED: COMMUTE ALERT: Sinkhole to Keep Stretch of I-694 Closed 'Until Further Notice'

The 10 people remaining without service have been supplied with water, Nelson said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Nelson said the water main was put in back in 1964, but it appears age was not a factor in what he said is more accurately considered a washout than a sinkhole, according to initial investigation.

He said about 1.5- to 2-million gallons of water were lost.

The washout has closed five miles of I-694, from Interstate 94 in Woodbury to Highway 36 in Oakdale, until further notice. Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said the goal is to reopen the road as soon as possible.

He said it was difficult to do a lot of work on the road until the water main itself was repaired, though he added MnDOT officials were working with the city to see what work could begin immediately.

"Their crews will work around the clock, and we will work around the clock, until this is repaired," Gutknecht said.

CHOPPER 5 VIDEO: Interstate 694 Sinkhole

Oakdale police spokesperson Michelle Stark said drivers should be prepared to find alternate routes for at least the rest of the week.

MnDOT has requested motorists use the following detours while the road is closed:

  • Northbound traffic should detour heading west on Interstate 94, then north to I-35E. 
  • Southbound traffic should take Highway 36 west to I-35E and then south to I-94

Gutknecht said the road closure made the commute Monday challenging, and things could be worse Tuesday with winter weather in the forecast.

RELATED: Hello Winter: It's About to Feel A Lot More Like December in the Twin Cities

"Monday mornings tend to be less busy," Gutknecht said. "Tomorrow could be interesting. Certainly, if weather moves in, and there are traction issues on the roadways there will be some challenges.

"Patience is the watchword."

Oakdale mayor Paul Reinke said he did not expect his community to feel an economic impact.

"We'll be fine, and we'll be better off when it's all done," he said.

While officials do not believe the I-694 water main break was caused by aging infrastructure, it is a concern of some local public works experts, who say similar water main breaks could cause more problems down the road.

"If we don't repair, rehabilitate or replace carefully, we're gonna have big problems," former St. Paul Public Works Director Tom Eggum said.

Eggum is a member of Minnesota 2050, a group seeking to increase public awareness about the importance of the state's critical infrastructure. He said while some may find the topic boring, infrastructure is vital and in desperate need of additional funding.

"If we don't we're going to have more problems like 694," he said.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, drinking water needs in Minnesota alone are estimated to hover around $7.4 billion.


Frank Rajkowski and Josh Rosenthal

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