St. Louis County faces its biggest road work seasonSt. Louis County will start work on $45.7 million in highway, bridge and culvert projects this summer, the biggest, most-expensive road construction season in the county’s history.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
St. Louis County will start work on $45.7 million in highway, bridge and culvert projects this summer, the biggest, most-expensive road construction season in the county’s history.
The projects range from the complete reconstruction of Jones Street in Eveleth to total resurfacing of Town Line Road in Hibbing and Ely Lake Drive near Gilbert, and the stabilization of dozens of miles of gravel road.
Around Duluth, many of the projects are in response to last June’s flood, with bridges and culverts set to be replaced along with many miles of highway shoulder that were washed out or weakened in the torrent of rain.
“Most of the emergency work was done last year. These are the permanent replacements for the flood damage,” said Jim Foldesi, St. Louis County’s director of public works.
Most of the projects will not require total road closures, although some may require temporary lane closures with flaggers on hand to direct traffic.
Just outside Duluth, Martin Road will be resurfaced between Jean Duluth Road and Rice Lake Road, causing some short-term traffic headaches on that popular Duluth artery. Normanna Road east of Jean Duluth also will see resurfacing this summer.
“This will be our biggest year ever,” Foldesi said. “But we don’t have many roads that will be closed that require long detours.”
The county projects don’t include what the Minnesota Department of Transportation will do this summer, such as the expansion of a four-lane expressway on U.S. Highway 53 south of Cook.
The largest sources of funding for the $45.7 million in county projects include $27 million in state highway money, about $8.5 million in local property tax revenue, and $7 million in federal highway money.
About 24 county highway bridges, many seriously damaged in the flood, will be replaced at a cost of $9.7 million, with federal flood money paying $7.7 million of that. Culverts will be replaced along 44 miles of roadway, most in the southeastern corner of the county outside Duluth, at a cost of about $4 million.
The road projects are part of a $75 million county construction effort this year, including buildings and other projects, that should help keep local contractors busy.
“These are jobs projects. We’re putting local people to work,” Keith Nelson, St. Louis County commissioner from Fayal Township said, during a County Board workshop Tuesday.
County officials have signed off on the plan, but the County Board still must approve contracts for each project as they are awarded in coming months.
Several creek and river crossings along Scenic Highway 61 east of Duluth, also damaged in the flood, will be repaired later in the fall, Foldesi said, after the rush of tourist season.
One of the few long detours will be caused when a Highway 44 bridge north of Brimson is replaced, forcing drivers to head onto Lake County Highway 2 during construction. Foldesi said he’s hoping that project can be finished quickly to save drivers time and gas money.
The county will spend $700,000 of local tax money to stabilize gravel roads by adding a polymer to the top layer of gravel as part of its gravel road improvement project to make for smoother roads that require less grading maintenance.
The county also has more than $1 million in federal money to add brighter white lines along roads as well as to improve railroad crossings. And the county is in charge of a $2.1 million federal project to resurface one mile of the Mesabi Trail bike route.
The $45.7 million spent this year doesn’t include the $10 million Haines Road reconstruction, the county’s single-largest road project, which will occur this summer. The contract for that project was let in 2012.
Geographically, St. Louis is the largest county east of the Mississippi River, with more than 3,000 miles of road under its care, including 1,500 miles of gravel roads, 601 large bridges and 400 large culverts.
Get roadwork updates on your smartphone
St. Louis County road and bridge projects will be updated weekly on the county’s online “construction viewer.” Residents and motorists also can sign up to get e-mail updates on the progress of the projects. Go to