Memorial Day now in the books, Orange Cone Season is here with all its lane-narrowed, curse-the-traffic pains in our bumpers.
You might think a city that complains about potholes as much as Duluth does would welcome and celebrate that time of year when, finally, the roads can get fixed. You'd think we'd all be merrily remembering that "the road to success is always under construction," as actress and comedian Lily Tomlin once reportedly said.
Fat chance - especially this year, with more than 20 projects and more than $36 million of road construction on the docket for the warm-weather (well, warmer) months. And that's just in Duluth, tallying up the city's, county's, and state's planned work here. Celebrate? Just getting through with our patience and sanity - and our car's struts - intact can be a worthy goal.
As we embark, here's a bit of at least sort-of good news: "Unlike in recent years, (St. Louis County's) 2019 work and resulting detours (in Duluth) won't have large regional impacts but will still have significant effect on the involved neighborhoods," Jim Foldesi, director of public works for the county, said in a statement to the News Tribune Opinion page last week. "Woodland (Avenue) will have a detour all summer but will be worth the pain as the project refurbishes the business district and adds bike lanes and new sidewalks and new turn lanes.
"Also," Foldesi said, "Superior Street will be detoured onto London Road as we reconstruct the road between 60th Avenue East and Lester River Road and rehab the bridge over the Lester River. A temporary traffic signal will be installed at 60th Avenue East and London Road during the detour."
With the exception of the city's well-publicized $10.2 million Superior Street reconstruction phase 2 downtown, the county's Woodland Avenue project is the biggie in Duluth this year with a price tag of $4.2 million. The funding is from the state. Only one county project this year in Duluth will use county transportation sales tax funding. That's the $1.5 million to resurface Lester River Road.
"St. Louis County, in recent years, has invested heavily in our county roads located within the City of Duluth, including rebuilding Haines Road and Highland Street following the 2012 flood; the reconstruction of Fourth Street, which wrapped up last year; intersection improvements on Arlington Avenue; resurfacing Becks Road; resurfacing work on Arrowhead Road; plus many others," Foldesi said.
The county's total investment in Duluth roads and bridges in 2019 will be $9.5 million. In all, the county is responsible for maintaining 46½ miles of roads and 27 bridges inside Duluth city limits.
Another big project in Duluth this year, dollars-wise, will be the city's work to recondition Decker Road from Piedmont Avenue to Mall Drive. The $3 million project includes water, sanitary, and gas infrastructure. In all, the city is spending $16.4 million this year to fix streets.
"In 2019, our largest project is the Superior Street reconstruction project. The remainder of our efforts and funding are focused on preserving our existing infrastructure and working with our partner agencies to prepare for (the Minnesota Department of Transportation's) Twin Ports Interchange reconstruction project that starts in 2020," Cari Pedersen, chief engineer of transportation for the city, told the Opinion page.
Those local street improvements this year in preparation for the can-of-worms rebuild include $3.6 million of work by MnDOT along Railroad Street, Garfield Avenue, 27th Avenue West, and 46th Avenue West. In all, the state is planning $10.5 million of work in Duluth in 2019.
It's a lot, all this road work in Duluth this year. Patience will be paramount and the end result worth it - unless you actually like complaining about potholes.
Get good at putting up with road construction now. The years to come in Duluth promise even busier Orange Cone Seasons with the state authorization for a new half-percent sales tax to fund Duluth's 25-year street improvement program.