Flood-ravaged Haines Road may stay closed for years; Jean Duluth Road may reopen by end of yearThe horseshoe bend of Haines Road, a convenient route for West Duluth residents heading up to Miller Hill Mall and the airport, has been blocked to traffic since June’s flooding washed out parts of the road — and it may stay closed for several years to come.
By: Andrew Krueger, Duluth News Tribune
The horseshoe bend of Haines Road, a convenient route for West Duluth residents heading up to Miller Hill Mall and the airport, has been blocked to traffic since June’s flooding washed out parts of the road — and it may stay closed for several years to come.
The flooding came at an awkward time for the road, which already was slated to undergo major reconstruction starting next year. St. Louis County, which maintains the road, could have put several million dollars into a quick post-flood fix by fall — but that work would have had to be torn up a few months later when the larger, long-planned project started next year.
“It really doesn’t make sense to waste that money,” said Brian Boder, assistant county highway engineer with the Public Works Department.
So the plan now is for that section of road — from Skyline Parkway down to just above the railroad tracks — to remain closed until the reconstruction is complete. That could be very late 2013, 2014 or even into 2015, depending on how the project is phased. Those details have yet to be worked out.
Meanwhile, another major county road still closed because of flood damage — Jean Duluth Road north of Duluth, where it crosses the Lester River — may reopen by the end of the year if everything goes right in the months ahead, Boder said.
Haines and Jean Duluth roads are two of nine St. Louis County-maintained highways that remained closed late last week because of flood damage.
Boder said flood damage to Haines Road is estimated at $3.5 million to $5 million.
That will be wrapped into the larger, estimated $10 million to $12 million reconstruction project. County officials still are negotiating with federal officials on how to include flood damage reimbursement into the previously planned project.
The reconstruction will include not only the horseshoe bend, but also the segment of Haines Road north of Skyline Parkway to Morris Thomas Road.
Design work should be done by fall, and after a review process the aim is to put the project out to bid in early 2013, with construction to start as soon as the project is awarded.
The work may be done in phases. Depending on how that’s arranged, parts of Haines Road might remain open for a time, or be completed sooner than others. But at this point, Boder said, it’s just too early to tell how things will go. He said a road project in excess of $10 million is a lot to fit into one construction season, so it’s likely some work will carry over into 2014.
Haines Road isn’t the only vital uphill link that’s ailing in Duluth. The state shut down U.S. Highway 2 between Interstate 35 and Boundary Avenue for much the same reason — it was damaged by floodwaters, and already was slated for significant repairs.
And Highland Avenue, linking West Duluth with Proctor and Hermantown, also was damaged by the heavy rain: Part of the road slumped along a slope near Oneota Cemetery. It’s been stabilized and is safe for now, Boder said, but it’s posing a dilemma for highway officials.
“We’ve got a Band-Aid on it now,” Boder said. “But it’s not the ultimate fix we want to do.”
The long-term fix would require closing the road — something county officials can’t see doing with two other well-traveled routes nearby already closed. They’d like to wait until Haines Road is finished, then close Highland.
But while waiting that long might make sense for traffic flow, it could also cost the county federal reimbursement for fixing the flood-damaged road. That federal money comes with deadlines for completion of the work, Boder said. At this point, the county is investigating options for how to proceed with the various projects.
Jean Duluth Road
After remaining intact during the height of the flash flooding on June 20, the large culvert carrying Jean Duluth Road across the Lester River a few miles north of Duluth gave way that evening to the river’s relentless floodwaters — an event that frazzled the nerves of some residents who had driven across it not long before.
It was a massive collapse, and in its wake the county plans to install a bridge over the river. Boder said the estimated $1 million project is on an aggressive schedule, with design work under way. It’s slated to go out to bid in about a month, and work could start by fall. Because the Lester River is a designated trout stream, county officials will have to work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
If all goes well, the road could reopen by the end of the year.
“It’s a very ambitious schedule and a lot of things have to go right, but we think it’s an achievable goal,” Boder said.
That would be good news for residents and businesses north of the washout. Jean Duluth Road is a main route between Duluth and parts of Lakewood and Normanna townships, and points farther north.
Kelly Mattson, owner of Kelly J’s Sewing Center and Quilt Shop, 6140 Jean Duluth Road, said customers “are finding their way” to her business. Posted detours are in place, and the county put out signs to help people find the store, she said.
And if customers call businesses up that way, Mattson said, “we can help direct them” with suggestions for the best route from the specific place they’re coming from.
But the closure remains an inconvenience, she said, and the posted detour is showing a lot of wear and tear from all the extra traffic.
“We’re hoping the county can get it squared away before winter,” she said of fixing Jean Duluth Road.
Boder said the county is going to resurface part of the detour — North Tischer Road — in August so it can better handle the extra traffic.