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The green side of Hwy. 10 project

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You've heard about the physical changes of the Highway 10 realignment project, but what about the environmental impacts?

The Natural Innovations group hosted Tom Swenson and Paul Munsterteiger from the Minnesota Department of Transportation Thursday evening. The two men told about the project, its impacts on traffic, the environment and more.

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Munsterteiger, environmental coordinator, said the Highway 10 project is "a huge issue to get your arms around."

He listed the types of drainage and water treatment ponds that will be used on the project. Not everything is final, but Munsterteiger said he is very particular about what goes in because it's better to have everything in place before the project rather than after.

Currently, the water treatment ponds, if they even exist, are not always up to par, and one area he even described as "kind of ugly."

"There are lots of things we could do to make it better," he said.

Those things include a two-cell pond twice the existing size at highways 59 and 10.

On Highway 59 South, there is a pond near the Ford dealership, which will stay in place. He said Mn/DOT might make it into a one or two cell pond as well.

On Highway 34, near Highway 59, there will be a better berm and an infiltration pond.

A new pond is being built west of the freezer plant on Roosevelt Avenue. Ultimately, from that pond, the water will go to a pond near Dynamic Homes.

Along the future frontage road, there will be a vortex unit that will treat the water and pump it to the Pelican River.

From east of the Pelican River to Nereson's car dealership, the median will widen and an infiltration pond and rain gardens will possibly be used in the median. Swenson said the ditches will also be dry at times so they can be mowed, hopefully giving people "the best of both worlds."

The public access near the Holiday Inn will be moved to the edge of the motel's east parking lot. The landing will be built to not tip directly into the lake, like it is now.

From the wall of the scenic overlook to the Lodge on the Lake, there will also be a vortex unit and pond installed.

From the Lodge to County Road 54, there will be an infiltration pond.

"We're still designing and looking for opportunities to hold and treat water," Munsterteiger said.

The standards Mn/DOT is using for the project are according to Pelican River Watershed District regulations, which Munsterteiger said are more stringent than the state guidelines.

The vortex's sediment separators will take 80 percent of the phosphorous out of the storm water and 96 percent of the solids.

Mn/DOT will also be taking other precautions as it works on the project. Among those things will be floating silt curtains in the Pelican River, erosion control blankets, ditch checks, winter wheat seed mix and temporary sediment basins.

"The Pelican River has been a very hot issue," he said.

Crews will be installing a new culvert for the river in two phases, similar to the bridges over Roosevelt Avenue. The new culvert will be placed next to the existing culvert.

For something as boring as a culvert, Munsterteiger said, "it's unique how all the things come together."

The culvert will be 480 feet long to go under the highway, frontage road and tracks, and will be a 9-by-16 foot pipe. While it may be large enough for a canoe to pass through, as someone suggested at the meeting, there will be large rocks placed in it as well.

Munsterteiger said he has also taken many, many soil samples throughout the project but hasn't found any contaminated soils yet.

Once the project is completed, Mn/DOT will be able to test and determine how much the ponds are doing to lower the sediments going into the Pelican River and Detroit Lake.

Swenson, program development engineer, explained the reason for the Highway 10 project is for safety and congestion issues -- trying to limit both.

"Burlington Northern considers it the most at-risk intersection in Becker County," he said of the Roosevelt Avenue crossing with the railroad tracks. There are 6,000 cars a day on Roosevelt Avenue and 60-70 trains a day.

There are also 70 access points along Highway 10 throughout Detroit Lakes. After the project, there will be seven.

The goal is for "mobility for through traffic, but still have access for local traffic," he said.

So according to the schedule, this year, workers are "setting up work we're going to do the next year." The grading and dirt work for the railroad realignment is visible along Randolph Road, and will continue to Washington Avenue this year. Signal lights have been placed at highways 59 and 34 as well.

Later this fall, the railroad bridge that will go over Roosevelt Avenue will be constructed.

In 2007, work on the alignment of County Road 54 will be moved to the other side of Petro Plus. Also the frontage road, which will eventually take the place of where Highway 10 lies now, will be constructed from Norseman Motors to East Shore Drive.

Also in 2007, the construction of the Highway 10 bridge over Roosevelt Avenue will begin. The Roosevelt Avenue underpass will be completed, with the street having been closed from about April into the fall.

While that will be a long period of time for Roosevelt Avenue to be closed, Swenson said the positive thing is the underpass will be completed one year sooner than Mn/DOT had anticipated.

The railroad work will be completed in 2007 also.

In 2008, work will be done on Washington Avenue North and McKinley Avenue, which will now be an intersection on Highway 10. The new Highway 10 will also be constructed.

In 2009, the frontage road will be completed to connect Frazee Street, the existing Highway 10 and East Shore Drive.

Swanson said many are asking: "'How can people put up with this for three years?'"

"Hopefully the public can see positive things happening each year," he added.

One of the biggest differences will be the Highway 59 bridge. Instead of two lanes, it will be five lanes when completed.

The free-flow lane, turning right onto Highway 10 from Highway 59 North, will be three times longer. The left turn signals on Highway 59 will operate at the same time, and there will be two left turn lanes off Highway 10 turning onto Highway 59 North.

Signal lights will be placed at Washington Avenue, McKinley Avenue, Jackson Avenue and Kris Street. County Road 54 will be built to be ready for traffic lights, but the signal lights won't be installed until warranted by traffic numbers.

The speed limit won't change much through town after the project is finished.

The limit will still be 50 mph where it currently lowers coming into Detroit Lakes from Frazee, and will lower to 30 mph about where it does now as well. Swenson said the 45 mph limit will basically be skipped.

Besides tracking water quality improvements, Mn/DOT will also be able to track the accident rate and future improvements.

When asked if the project will affect downtown business, Swenson said he can't predict the future, but people come to Detroit Lakes for a reason and will likely continue.

He added that highways 10 and 59 used to run through Detroit Lakes on Washington Avenue and West Shore Drive, and that the city didn't die when they were moved to where they are now.

Also when Highway 10 was built in the 1970s to bypass surrounding towns like Perham, New York Mills and Frazee, if it would have been workable back then, it likely would have bypassed Detroit Lakes as well.

"If it's easy, it probably would've been done in the '70s," he said. "It's probably not a perfect solution, but hopefully doesn't kill the downtown."

The main concern of Mn/DOT is safety and mobility, but also to keep the town alive, as well.

For more information and updates on the project, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/d4/projects/connectdetroitlakes/.

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