Lakewood Road residents have their fill
The big trucks rumble along Lakewood Road all day long, residents say. It's turned that rural-but-residential part of Lakewood Township northeast of Duluth into something of a construction zone over the past month or so. "I work outside a lot, an...
The big trucks rumble along Lakewood Road all day long, residents say.
It's turned that rural-but-residential part of Lakewood Township northeast of Duluth into something of a construction zone over the past month or so.
"I work outside a lot, and I hear the noise quite loudly all day long," said Lakewood Road resident Kathy Jensen. There's the noise of the dump trucks, which sometimes pass by every 10 minutes; the noise of the bulldozer that pushes the fill around, and the sweeper that cleans debris off the road.
Residents say trucks have been hauling and dumping excess fill to a gravel pit for the past several summers.
"The amount of truck traffic is phenomenal over a seven- or eight-hour period," said Lakewood Road resident Tom Little.
Some who live along the 2½-mile stretch of paved county road plan to attend the Lakewood Township Board meeting at 7 tonight to air their concerns and urge the board to put a cap on excess hauling, Little said.
"There should be a more suitable place for this fill to be dumped," Jensen said. "I'm living in the country because I enjoy the quietness."
The meeting may have been pre-empted. On Tuesday night, Lakewood Township Supervisor Tim Musick said that he had heard from both the landowner, who he declined to identify, and the project's company -- Nels Nelson & Sons Inc. of Cloquet -- that further hauling wouldn't be necessary.
"They have both told me today the hauling would cease," Musick said.
The landowner had been using the rubble to turn his gravel pit into a pasture and now has enough fill, Musick said.
At any rate, it's an issue that arises with many road construction projects: What to do with the extra material that gets dug up and must be hauled away?
"It's not bad stuff, and it has to be dumped somewhere," Little said. "But over two full summers, and starting on a third, it does get old."
"It isn't necessarily a problem, but it's part of the process," said Jim Foldesi, an assistant engineer with the St. Louis County public works department.
There are several options for crews to use such fill, Foldesi said. The best option is to reuse the material on the site, such as in the roadbed or in an embankment, Foldesi said. If that's not possible, contractors look for a site to dump the fill near or even next to the project. Otherwise, contractors often turn to sites that are some distance away.
That's especially true for street projects within the city limits, where there is usually no room to pile the unwanted material, said Cari Pedersen, chief engineer of transportation for the city of Duluth. Much of the fill being hauled to the Lakewood Township site is from a 13-block street rehabilitation project in Duluth's Lakeside neighborhood.
The Lakeside project calls for removing about 14,000 cubic yards of clay soils and backfilling with more suitable sand or gravel, Pedersen said. A small, single-axle dump truck can haul five cubic yards at a time, while a large truck can haul 10 to 15 cubic yards.
The unwanted fill becomes the property of the project's contractor and it's up to the contractor to find a taker for the extra fill, Pedersen said.
A common place to dump the fill is in the hundreds of old gravel pits throughout St. Louis County, Foldesi said. Owners of depleted pits often want fill so they can rehabilitate the site, which is mandated by law. The fill is used to level steep slopes and to provide a layer of soil to vegetate the area, Foldesi said. Generally, the people who agree to take the fill get the material for free, Foldesi said.
Some fill sites are used for short-term projects, and most people seem to tolerate a short-term disruption.
"But if there's a big gravel pit out there that serves a big region, for 10, 15 years, that's where people get upset," Foldesi said.
Representatives from Nels Nelson & Sons declined to comment for this story. The owner of the gravel pit off of Lakewood Road could not be reached for comment.
"It's an inconvenience to residents, and there are times when we do hear about it," said Marcus Hall, St. Louis County public works director. But as long as the vehicles hauling the fill are of legal weight, the county can't prohibit them from frequent travel along county roads, Hall said.
News Tribune reporter Will Ashenmacher contributed to this report.