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MnDOT knocking on doors for 'can of worms'

Home visits are one method being used to inform the public, while certified letters go out this month to owners who need to have buildings near the work surveyed in advance of pile-driving and the resulting vibrations

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The can of worms interchange in Duluth. File / News Tribune
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Not all door-knockers are pranksters or politicians. For residents in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Duluth, it could be the state transportation department knocking on the door as MnDOT attempts to get out the word about the upcoming Twin Ports Interchange reconstruction project.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware of the project and has the opportunity for feedback,” said Roberta Dwyer late last month at a public meeting about the $342 million project.

Door knocking efforts throughout August will include information packets being dropped off for residents, said Dwyer, the project manager based in MnDOT’s Duluth office.

In addition to door-knocking, MnDOT will be sending certified letters to any building within 300 feet of proposed work. The letters announce the need for building surveys between now and November.

“We don’t anticipate blasting on this project,” Dwyer said, “but there will be a lot of vibrations from driving pile and we want to ensure that everything is safe. We’ll be documenting these buildings.”

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The letters will ask building owners to schedule with American Engineering Testing, which will be conducting the surveys. The Duluth-based outfit will set up a visit at the owner’s convenience. The surveys take up to two hours.

Known locally as the “can of worms,” the Twin Ports Interchange is the convergence of Interstate 35 with I-535 and U.S. Highway 53 through Lincoln Park. The project runs from 2020-2023 and proposes to make the interchange safer for travelers and offer more efficient travel for heavy freight, which is restricted to city streets due to weight limits on aging ramps and bridges.

Regular monthly public meetings have proven valuable for getting out updates — with residents learning about detours, and that work on the interchange will run year-round as opposed to the traditional May-October road construction cycle.

But the meetings aren’t always well-attended. To penetrate the audience, MnDOT has been reaching out in other ways, including making hundreds of contacts by tabling at events across the city.

“The interchange is part of the Lincoln Park neighborhood and needs to serve their needs for the next 75 years — in addition to the motorists and freight needs,” Dwyer told the News Tribune on Thursday. “Early input from the residents, businesses and motorists is vital to a successful project.”

Additionally, she said, the public needs to know about the construction effort itself. Demolition voids and heavy equipment will be a regular presence. Three-plus years of work will alter traffic and create congestion.

“Knowledge of the project and its impacts will allow motorists, residents, tourists, businesses and all who use the interchange to plan for the construction impacts in advance,” Dwyer said.

She called the outreach “critical.”

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Already, preliminary work can be seen throughout the interchange. This month, MnDOT is scheduled to drive piles on a testing basis.

“There will be noise,” Dwyer said.

Related Topics: TRAFFIC AND CONSTRUCTION
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