MnDOT plans big Northland construction seasonThe Minnesota Department of Transportation on Wednesday released details of its 2013 highway program, including 34 new or continued projects totaling more than $120 million in Northeastern Minnesota’s District 1.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
The Minnesota Department of Transportation on Wednesday released details of its 2013 highway program, including 34 new or continued projects totaling more than $120 million in Northeastern Minnesota’s District 1.
“This will be another big year for road construction in Northeastern Minnesota,” MnDOT District 1 Engineer Duane Hill said. “MnDOT’s road construction program includes approximately $97 million in new projects and
$29 million in carry-over work from last year.
“It’s one of the bigger programs we have ever had,” Hill said.
Projects that will create delays in the Twin Ports area include the second year of work on the Blatnik Bridge, work along London Road/Highway 61 between 26th Avenue East and the Lester River, and work along Minnesota Highway 23 in the West Duluth and Fond du Lac neighborhoods.
Motorists on Interstate 35 will again have to contend with single-lane traffic in each direction between Proctor and Esko, as well as intermittent lane closures near Scanlon as four bridges are repaired and at 10 other locations in Carlton County as cable median barriers are installed.
Several of the projects will repair damage caused by June’s flooding. Along London Road and Highway 61, historic bluestone arches beneath the road and catch basins and pipes will be repaired.
The largest flood-related project will move part of Minnesota Highway 210 and build a new bridge in Jay Cooke State Park. The project is expected to cost $4 million.
June’s flooding caused numerous washouts and landslides in the park along Highway 210, which is built on hills of unstable clay and silt. Undertaking emergency repairs, MnDOT was able to reopen the highway from the west to the park headquarters and campground in four months by replacing a washed-out culvert with a 100-foot-long bridge and plugging a 35-foot-deep, 100-foot-long gap with a custom-built box culvert.
But the highway remains closed to the public between park headquarters and Minnesota Highway 23 in Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood.
To meet the Department of Natural Resources’ desire to reopen Highway 210 between Jay Cooke’s headquarters and picnic grounds and trails at Oldenberg Point, MnDOT fast-tracked the plan to move a section of the highway and built the 300-foot-long concrete bridge to bypass where floodwaters tore a 50-foot-deep, 250-foot-wide gap through the highway after an earthen embankment on Forbay Lake — part of Minnesota Power’s reservoir/power generation system — gave way.
“We’ll have access (to Oldenberg Point) by the end of summer,” Hill said.
The future of Highway 210 between Oldenberg Point and Fond du Lac is uncertain. MnDOT did emergency work on two sections of the highway last year to give Minnesota Power employees access to the Thomson and Fond du Lac hydro stations. The state will begin gathering public input later this year about whether the road should be repaired and reopened to the public or perhaps converted to a different use such as a multi-use trail.
Several projects across the district are being done specifically to improve safety, including installing the cable median barriers along I-35, expanding U.S. Highway 53 to four lanes near Cook, and installing centerline rumble strips on sections of several highways.
Centerline rumble strips can accelerate wear on a highway, but they have been shown to reduce crashes by 30 to 80 percent, Hill said.
“If we can prevent one fatal accident, it’s worth it,” he said.
Statewide, more than 300 MnDOT construction projects totaling $1.1 billion are scheduled for this year.
“The $1.1 billion that we are investing in our state transportation system this year will increase regional connections throughout the state, as well as support jobs and community-building that make Minnesota a great place to live and do business,” MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle said. “The transportation infrastructure is a key component to our state’s economy. This work helps ensure that motorists can continue to get to work, to recreation, and that goods and services can get to us.”
The 2013 construction program includes work on 87 projects in the Twin Cities and 193 projects in Greater Minnesota. An additional 57 projects statewide will improve safety at railroad crossings, repair seawalls and docks, make improvements on runways and terminals at regional airports, and improve transit centers.