61sign Historic U.S. Highway 52, Minnesota

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Historic Alignments

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Historic Alignments

A summary of the historic alignments bypassed over U.S. 52's history where some part of the old route has survived. Click on the lines for historic information.

Year By Year

U.S. 52's alignment at the beginning of the selected year, showing roadway status (unpaved, paved, divided, or interstate). Changes made in alignment or status for the selected year can be turned on or off. Click on the "C" symbols for explanations of the route developments that year.

About the Data:

Historic information was taken from MnDOT construction logs, highway plans, and right-of-way maps, plus official highway maps and historic aerial photos.

Alignment lines were drawn using Google Earth. Map powered by the Google Maps API.

Route History

U.S. 52 was a relative new-comer to Minnesota's highway network, first seen in the state on May 4, 1934 as part of a major system reorganization and expansion (previous to 1934, U.S. 52 had only reached as far north as Fowler, Indiana). 52's route crisscrossed Minnesota from southeast to northwest, connecting the major cities of Rochester, St. Paul, Minneapolis, St Cloud, and the Fargo-Moorhead area. The route was cobbled together from what had previously been several different routes, both U.S. and state, plus a few sections that were new to the trunk highway system.

Routes Replaced in 1934

U.S. 52 replaced the following routes through Minnesota on May 4, 1934 (listed by type, and then from north to south). Note: the Highway Department treated the U.S. routes as a separate system from the state routes before 1934 - the U.S. routes and the state routes were doubled-up on most of the highways listed below.

U.S. Routes



Length (Miles)

Fate on May 4, 1934

Fargo to East St Cloud 176.8 U.S. 10-S was the south branch of U.S. 10's route between St Cloud and Fargo. The branches were eliminated in 1934 - the north branch became U.S. 10's now familiar route, while 52 took over the old south branch.
Anoka to downtown St. Paul 27.9 U.S. 10 was rerouted in 1934 to bypass Minneapolis, while 52 took over its old through-city route.
Champlin to downtown Minneapolis 17.4 U.S. 169 was rerouted in 1934 onto Lyndale Ave and West River Road between Minneapolis and Champlin as an alternate route to 52. It had previously followed U.S. 10 between Minneapolis and Champlin.
On Robert Trail / Street between downtown St Paul and Inver Grove Heights 9.5 U.S. 65 was rerouted in 1934 to Minneapolis.
Just north of Hampton to the Iowa border at Prosper 109.1 U.S. 55 was retired in 1934, and its number was reused by the now familiar state route.

State Routes



Length (Miles)

Fate on May 4, 1934

Moorhead to Fergus Falls (with U.S. 10-S) 50.6 Route retired, number re-used by a new state route between Motley and Akeley in north-central Minnesota.
Fergus Falls to 5 miles north (with U.S. 10-S) 5.1 Route retired, number reused by a new state route in southern Minnesota.

2 Parts:

1. Between downtown Fergus Falls and the south junction with U.S. 59. (with U.S. 10-S)

2. Evansville to downtown St Paul (with U.S. 10-S, U.S. 10, U.S. 169 - see U.S. route chart above for details)

Part 1:

Part 2: 163.5

Retired southeast of Fergus Falls.

2 Parts:

1. Between downtown St Paul and the intersection of Concord and Robert (with U.S. 65).

2. At Pine Bend (Rosemount)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Route retired, number re-used by U.S. 53 in northern Minnesota.
Just north of Hampton to just north of Canon Falls (with U.S. 55) 9.4 Route retired south of Hampton.
Just north of Cannon Falls to the Iowa border at Prosper (with U.S. 55) 99.7 Route retired south of Cannon Falls.

New Highways

A few sections of U.S. 52's route were not part of a state or U.S. route on May 4, 1934. The following chart gives their locations and authorizing route (the route number is the legal route number as authorized in 1933, which was never marked).



Length (Miles)


Between South Robert Trail and Courthouse Blvd through Inver Grove Heights - via Rich Valley Blvd / 105th St / Inver Grove Trail 3 miles Temporary route on what had been an old graded county road. Bypassed in 1936 by construction of a new highway along what is now Highway 55.
Old County Road between Rosemount (current jct of U.S. 52 and MN 55) and Hampton 10.1 miles Old gravel county road, mostly graded in 1922. Road paved in 1938. Replaced by a new highway along the current alignment of U.S. 52 between 1943 and 1947.

Route Development in 1934

Because U.S. 52's route was cobbled together from so many earlier routes, the status of its original roadway also varied quite a bit (see map, right, for an overview). Most of the route was paved with the Department of Highways' standard 20' concrete pavement, which was used between about 1928 and 1939. The section between Anoka and Sauk Centre through St Cloud, however, had been developed between 1920 and 1927 when the earlier 18' concrete pavement standard was in use. This section of the route had been one of the first to be paved in the state because of its high traffic volumes. Ironically, this also made it one of the most obsolete highways by 1934.

The route through the Twin Cities area had generally been paved by the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul or by Ramsey and Hennepin Counties. The route on Robert Street/Trail out of the south side of St. Paul had been developed by Ramsey County in the mid to late 1920's and paved with 27' of concrete pavement, which at the time was considered a "3-lane road" (ie, 3 x 9' driving lanes). The highway leading northwest out of Minneapolis towards Anoka had been completed by 1920 and paved with a combination of asphalt and concrete, generally 20' in width northwest of Robbinsdale.

There were also 3 locations where U.S. 52's route had not yet been paved or otherwise developed as part of the trunk highway system. The longest was the old cut-off between Evansville and Fergus Falls, which had previously been in use by U.S. 10S but had not been part of the trunk highway system. The other two sections were south of St. Paul between Inver Grove Heights and Hampton. All three of these unpaved sections were eliminated by the end of 1940 by the construction of new roads or paving.

Further Pre-Interstate Development

The years between 1934 and the beginning of construction of the Interstate System in the late 1950's saw the redevelopment of the oldest sections of U.S. 52's route, mostly between Minneapolis and Sauk Centre. Work was almost continuous after 1934. By 1958, U.S. 52's route had been rebuilt into a four lane highway from Anoka to Albany, connecting at the north end with a new two-lane bypass of the towns between Albany and Sauk Centre. Further south, the highway at Champlin, plus the stretch between Osseo and Minneapolis were rebuilt into four-lane divided highways between the mid 1940's and mid 1950's.

Other developments included:

Development During the Interstate Era

Interstate 94 was planned as a replacement for U.S. 52 between the Twin Cities and Fargo. It was laid out to closely follow 52's old route northwest of St. Cloud. However, between St Cloud and Minneapolis, the freeway was routed along the west bank of the Mississippi River along the old MN 152 corridor, avoiding the need for multiple river crossings (52 crossed the Mississippi at Anoka and St Cloud). While I-94 was being constructed, work began almost simultaneously south of the Twin Cities to upgrade the connection to Rochester into an expressway.

Construction of I-94 between Fargo and Albany, 1962-1970

The first section of 52 to be replaced by the interstate was at Fergus Falls in 1962. By 1970 all of the old 20' pavement north of Sauk Centre had been bypassed by four-lanes of controlled access highway. South of Sauk Centre, the two-lane highway developed in the mid 1950's became the southbound lanes. The Interstate temporarily ended at Albany, where it merged onto the already existing divided highway into St Cloud (the existing divided highway between Albany and St Joseph was upgraded to interstate standards in the mid 1970's). .

Construction of the Rochester Expressway, 1958-1978

Construction got underway in the late 1950's on a four-lane expressway to replace the old two-lane highway between the Twin Cities and Rochester. Both the north end at Inver Grove Heights and the south end on the west side of Rochester were completed in 1959. Most of the construction was completed by 1967, replacing the old 20' concrete pavement completed in the late 20's and early 30's. However, the southern-most section bypassing Rochester and connecting the expressway with I-90 was not completed until 1978.

On I-94 between Albany and Minneapolis, 1976-1983

The final phase of construction on I-94 connecting Minneapolis with St Cloud took place in the late 1970's and early 1980's. By the end of 1978, the freeway was completed between Albany and the north metro, but did not yet reach all the way to downtown Minneapolis. Nevertheless, U.S. 52 was moved onto I-94 north of Brooklyn Park in about 1979, bypassing its old route along the east bank of the Mississippi (still in use by U.S. 10 today). By about 1983, 52 followed I-94 the entire way between Fargo and Minneapolis.

The Lafayette Freeway

The first section of the Lafayette Freeway, planned as a replacement for Robert Street south of St Paul, was opened in 1968 between I-94 at downtown and Concord Street across the Mississippi River. Construction stalled until 1975, when the freeway was extended south to the future location of I-494. It wouldn't be until the mid 1980's that the next push to get the Lafayette south to Courthouse Boulevard would take place. Finally, in 1994 the freeway was completed. U.S. 52 was quickly routed onto the freeway, allowing it to bypass all surface streets in St Paul and Minneapolis for the first time via a direct connection to I-94. 52 was now officially routed onto I-94 all the way between St Paul and Fargo.

I-90 to the Iowa Border

The section of U.S. 52's route that experienced the least amount of change was the section south of I-90. Projects between the 1960's and today have widened or paved over the old 20' concrete and realigned several segments to eliminate sharp curves or inadequate sight lines. However, none of the these changes have been radical, and road has remained a rural two-lane highway. The biggest reconstruction took place as recently as 2006 between Fountain and Preston, which did in fact add a short divided section at the north junction with MN 16.

U.S. 52 Today

To the driving public, U.S. 52 might as well not exist north of St Paul. In fact, MnDOT doesn't even mark it (it still show up on official highway maps however). In contrast, the expressway connecting St Paul with Rochester has emerged as one of the most important highways in the state of Minnesota. MnDOT has focused a tremendous amount of energy on the corridor since a 2000 study found that there was a high risk of the highway developing "performance problems" in the future due to increased traffic. MnDOT developed a plan, dubbed "Vision 52", that made it a goal to ultimately upgrade U.S. 52 between I-494 and I-90 south of Rochester into a "fully access controlled freeway facility". Since 2000, interchanges or grade separations have been added at:

Many of these grade separations on the north side of Rochester were completed as part of the ROC52 reconstruction, which was the largest single one-time letting for a highway project in Minnesota history at $232 Million. It was also MnDOT's first design-build, best value highway project. There are many more projects planned along the corridor in the next few years, including an interchange at Cannon Falls, and an interchange south of Pine Island.

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