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Heavy rains delay Highway 34 paving in Park Rapids

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PARK RAPIDS - Water from heavy rains last weekend washed over Highway 34, prompting some citizen concerns that storm sewers were overflowing on the two-year project through the heart of Park Rapids.

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The street under construction was a sea of mud in several areas along the length of the construction when 2 inches of rain fell Friday.

The storm sewers are just fine and weren't re-routed, project contractors said Thursday at their bi-monthly meeting.

The water ran from curb to curb because the asphalt wasn't level with the curb and rains couldn't wash up over the curbs into catch basins to drain.

By this weekend an extra 4-inch lift of bituminous had already alleviated the problem, said MN DOT project supervisor Larry Randall.

"The catch basins are in the curb," said Al Minnerath, project foreman for the general contractor, Central Specialties. "The water just couldn't reach up to that level" in sporadic areas of the project.

"Most of it was caused because the (asphalt) was four inches below the gutter line," Randall said. "So the water would have had to come up at least four inches before it could drain." Since it only rained two inches, that wasn't likely.

Rains did delay the work, and set contractors back two days in the paving. It's expected that more rains this weekend will further delay the work, Minnerath and Randall predicted.

Storm sewer runoff goes into a "grid chamber" that filters the water before it eventually drains into the Fish Hook River, Randall said. The filtering uses a sediment process and baffles to strain particles out of the water, Randall said. "It does depend on the size of the event" how fast the water is filtered through this grid, he said. "But it does have a lot of capacity. It shouldn't be an issue. The grid chamber won't cause backup."

Traffic was switched back to the north lanes Thursday so contractors can put the final asphalt lifts on the south lanes.

There will be frequent lane switches and closures as contractors attend to the final detail work, Randall said. Motorists should exercise caution through the length of the project, because vehicles may not be driving where they did the day before.

Once the paving is done next week, traffic marking tape and paint will be put down.

Then the detail work will begin behind the curbs, and final touches will be made to business driveways. Warren's Tire & Auto has been without a driveway entry off Highway 34 for more than a week. There is alley access to the business.

Sod, trees and sidewalks will complete the off-street work.

Electricians started wiring the traffic signal at the intersection of Henrietta Avenue and Highway 34 Thursday afternoon.

The street lights in the downtown area were fitted last summer with loop detectors underneath the lanes and are computerized to ease traffic flow. But when a driver triggers the detector in one lane, it may not always speed the flow of traffic through either Main Avenue or Highway 71 a block east because the lights, while controlled and monitored by computers, aren't perfectly synchronized, Randall said.

"They're constantly being observed," Randall said.

Traffic volume triggers the plates that are hooked electronically to the loop detectors just underneath the pavement surface. The timing on the lights is closely watched to prevent traffic from backing up too far.

"When you have two intersections that close together, it will get screwed up," Minnerath said.

Contractors promised to look at Henrietta Township roads that have undergone heavy use and been damaged during the construction. Those damaged stretches will be repaired.

The work should be completed by mid-November.

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