Road construction season nears
Lake County motorists on Highway 61 north of Two Harbors and Highway 1 between Highway 61 and Ely can expect more delays due to road construction this summer.
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. The report includes only MnDOT projects, not those planned by counties or townships.
"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.
Sections of Highways 1 and 61 will be reduced to single lane
Much like last summer, parts of Highway 61 will see a single, flagger-controlled lane due to construction. The project that began last August between the Silver Creek Tunnel and Kennedy Creek is expected to be finished in June and lane restrictions will resume this spring. Another project will start in July near Little Marais, reducing traffic along that section to one lane with a flagger. The $7 million project, which will reclaim and overlay over five miles of road, is expected to last from mid-July to late November this year and will resume in 2014.
Last year's ambitious Highway 1 project between Highway 61 and Ely, which sent many motorists on an extended detour, is nearly complete. Five miles of the highway were realigned and reconstructed beginning in Nov. 2011, but only striping and turf establishment remain. The project should be done by June and only temporary lane restrictions will affect motorists.
Other portions of Highway 1 will be under construction this year. A section in Murphy City (about 8 miles north of Finland) will be under construction all summer, during which drivers can expect a single flagger-controlled lane. The project will raise the grade and resurface the road as well as replace a culvert.
In addition to the Lake County portion, over 30 miles of the highway west of Ely in St. Louis County will be under construction this summer, including daytime lane closures and a detour.
Increasing safety a top priority
Several projects across the district are being done specifically to improve safety, including installing centerline rumble strips on Highway 61 in Lake County.
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.