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Cloquet road construction moves ahead

Minnesota Department of Transportation Highway 33 Project Supervisor Jim Sorenson explains how one access road to the Cloquet Wal-Mart will be closed starting this week. (Jana Peterson / Pine Journal)1 / 2
Work on the intersection of Highway 33, Doddridge Avenue and Big Lake Road is progressing, with concrete paving work already underway. (Franny Slater / Pine Journal)2 / 2

The Minnesota Highway 33 reconstruction project in Cloquet is in its eighth week, and officials say it’s running about a week behind, mostly because the concrete paving equipment arrived late.

“I think we’ll be able to make it up,” Jim Sorenson, Highway 33 project supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said last week on an unofficial tour of the project from Selmser Avenue to Interstate 35 in Cloquet. Although the project won’t be completely finished until October, he said traffic patterns are expected to go back to normal Sept. 12 after both the southbound and northbound lanes of the highway are reconstructed with concrete.

Other changes along the highway are becoming more visible now. The retaining wall between the Perkins restaurant and Big Lake Road is mostly finished — with a top railing and bushes yet to be placed — and a new sidewalk will be installed below the wall very soon.

When it’s completed, the intersection will be much more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, with sidewalks on all four corners and an island between the northbound and southbound lanes of the highway where people crossing can stop safely.

Big Lake Road will have four lanes where it meets Highway 33: one going up the hill and three going down, including left-turn, straight ahead and right-turn lanes. There also will be left- and right-turn lanes into the Pine Tree Plaza parking lot, whose entrance was moved about 20 feet up the roadway to allow for more cars to line up by the traffic light, Sorenson said.

Over the next couple of weeks there will be lots of action on the project, Sorenson said.

While handwork (on more challenging sections and intersections) for concrete already has started, the concrete paving crew was set to begin working on the mainline, or main ribbon of pavement, this weekend, Sorenson said. They will start near the intersection with Selmser Avenue and work their way south to I-35.

“Concrete lasts longer, and costs a little more initially,” he said, comparing the new surface to the current blacktop surface. “It doesn’t pothole as much either, but when it does need repair, it’s quite expensive.”

Cloquet Walmart entrance to close for a week

Just after midnight Wednesday, workers will close the Gillette Road entrance to Wal-Mart and other businesses on the east side of Highway 33 for a seven-day period while they do the concrete work for that intersection.

Two-way traffic in the southbound lanes of Highway 33 will continue, and people still will be able to access the businesses on the west side of the highway. However, traffic heading to Wal-Mart and surrounding businesses will be routed to the intersection with Doddridge Avenue and then the frontage road. Drivers can also use 14th Street to Stanley Avenue to access businesses in that area.

MnDOT is also adding a right-turn lane into the south end of Gillette Road, as well as a dedicated left-turn lane at the same location.

“The right turn lane will be a big safety improvement over people using the shoulder like they do now,” said Sorenson.

Street work in West Duluth starts Monday

The city of Duluth’s ongoing street preservation program will move to portions of Superior Street, First Street and 40th Avenue West in West Duluth starting Monday.

City officials said the work will include Superior and First streets between 40th and 46th avenues West, and 40th Avenue West from Interstate 35 to Grand Avenue. It will include a combination of mill-and-overlay work, and reclamation and resurfacing.

Access to businesses will be maintained during the work, but drivers are advised to find alternate routes if possible. The estimated completion date is Sept. 12.