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The Highway 10 project as construction was underway this summer in Detroit Lakes.

Highway 10 remaking Detroit Lakes

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Detroit Lakes Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501 http://www.dl-online.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/5/0304/2-8-hwy-10-cmyk.jpg?itok=hKJ3tF-p
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Highway 10 remaking Detroit Lakes
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

For the most part, the Highway 10 project is finished. It's now up to the city of Detroit Lakes to complete the redevelopment and beautification work around town.

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When the project bid was let a couple years ago, Hoffman Construction of Black River Falls, Wis., was awarded the second phase of the project -- the major portion of it -- with a price tag of $32.5 million. That made up for about half of the total project cost.

After 85 work orders and 16 supplement agreements, the construction phase of the project increased to $33.8 million total.

"We did a lot of extra work throughout the job -- everything from contaminated soil clean up, we had a lot of sidewalk and curb and gutter that the city requested to have done," Shiloh Wahl said.

Wahl served as construction project engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. "There were a lot of extra type things, but that's to be expected on this type of job.

"You can't catch everything in the design phases."

The increase in cost wasn't substantial in the grand scheme of the project.

"If you're looking at it percentage wise, it came in about 4 percent or so above the original contract cost," he said. MnDOT's goal on all projects is to keep that increase under 7 percent.

"We were pretty pleased with the way things turned out," he said. "Cost wise and actually quality wise. We've been hearing nothing by compliments from a lot of the public."

Other cost portions of the project include $300,000 for building demolitions, $1.2 million for work at the Highway 34 and Highway 59 intersection, $8.5 million for railroad grading, $6 million for right of way and other services with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, $14 million for buying up buildings -- which included seven houses, nine businesses and one BNSF shed.

The total project cost came in at $63.8 million.

History of the project

The project began in 2000, when the state had a surplus in funds. MnDOT had completed a study in 1999, identifying corridors throughout the state that needed attention. Detroit Lakes was one of the bottlenecks identified.

The state earmarked funds for the project to bring the corridor up to MnDOT standards.

To add to the mix, Evans (now Central Market) moved to its current location, causing more traffic concerns for MnDOT.

At the start of 2001, MnDOT began a series of public meetings, asking for input on the design of the highway realignment.

MnDOT also identified a need for another underpass or overpass within the city and wanted to close off many of the 60-plus access points along the highway.

The project found its support, but it also met plenty of opposition along the way. MnDOT needed to have the state earmarked funds designated by Feb. 28, 2003, or it would lose them. Once the public input was taken, it was estimated that plans and design would take about a year to draw up.

Among the supporters was then-mayor Larry Buboltz. He was quoted in the Dec. 16, 2001, Tribune as saying he was in support of the project, but wasn't certain he'd have enough support from the city council to pass a city agreement to go ahead with the project.

Another supporter was Dick Hecock, speaking in favor of the project because of the benefits to water quality due to new holding ponds, and other improvements.

The most vocal opposition came from the downtown business community.

Many thought that by straightening out the S-curve and taking Highway 10 out of town, motorists would bypass the downtown area and take their business elsewhere.

Dave Carter, Rick Jordahl, Dan Neumeister, Sid Olson, Mike Danner, Dennis Meyer, Michael Norby and Bob Spillman submitted a petition with over 80 signatures on it. It included, "We are still working on how Wal-Mart will ultimately affect our business. Please let us overcome one challenge at a time."

From the beginning, the project included straightening the highway, the Roosevelt Underpass and the frontage road from East Shore Drive. Some projects were tacked on along the way, such as the Highway 59 bridge and the work and signal system at Highway 34 and Highway 59.

Before the additional projects, the cost was estimated to be $30 million for the state and $500,000 for the city for signal lights and utility expenses.

In February of 2003, the city council voted 5-3 to approve a three-phase, 10-year project. Those in favor included Gene Berg, Bruce Imholte, John Hoeglund, Dixie Johnson and Jim Anderson.

Voting opposed were Leonard Heltemes, Matt Brenk and Dave Aune. Jan Ness was absent for the vote.

Those voting opposed cited the financial damage it would do to downtown businesses and the cost to the city.

According to the plan then, Phase 1 would begin spring 2003 for $3 million. Phase 2 would e $4 million for work at Highway 10 and Highway 59 and Highway 59 and Highway 34 intersections. Phase 3 would include moving the railroad tracks and straightening the S-curve.

Right-of-way costs were estimated at $5 million, and the city would have to pay $410,000 to relocate the Rudd Street substation.

City Engineer Gary Nansen said those costs increased substantially from 2001 to 2007 because of the design stage and other improvements added to the list.

The city's $500,000 would just be surface improvements and signals; the extent of sewer and water was not captured in that 2001 estimate, he said.

"When it was finally decided that Highway 10 was going to be re-aligned, there were some real rough numbers that came up. I know $30 million was something MnDOT came up with once they had taken a look at it," Nansen said.

Finally, in 2006, the plans were finished, and estimates and the schedule was actually given to the city with its share.

"2002 would have been very early in the project in terms of trying to finalize what the costs would be," Nansen said.

Once into the design stage, that's when it jumped from $30 million to $60 million. Once those numbers were decided on, that's when MnDOT needed a "cooperative agreement" with the city, which he said was entered into in about 2006.

City share

Wahl said the city approached MnDOT years ago about access at then Evans, causing concerns. A study included the entire Detroit Lakes corridor.

He added that the inception was before his time on the project, but talking to those working then on the project, he said he was told it was more about concepts and ideas than numbers or cost.

After the projects were combined, they were "lumped into one high-dollar project."

The city share of the project brought in much smaller numbers. Nansen said phase 1 of the project, which was awarded to Lunda Construction also out of Black River Falls, was more preparation work for the major realigning project.

Prep work included work at the Roosevelt Avenue underpass, the box culvert on the Pelican River, railroad grading and the signal at Highway 59 and Highway 10. Much of the work was utility work, sewer and water, which cost the city about $244,000.

The second phase of the project included more sewer and water work along Washington Avenue and the new redevelopment area. That price tag for the city was $937,000, Nansen said.

For traffic signals, wherever there was an arm to a city street -- for example Kris Street, Jackson Avenue and McKinley Avenue -- the city had to pay a portion, which turned out to be $677,000.

Some of that cost can be paid for with municipal state aid funds, though, Nansen said.

Work on stormwater basins also cost the city $201,000, and railroad ballast, which started out at $350,000 was scaled back to $200,000-$250,000.

The total cost of the city share of the Highway 10 project has been about $2.3 million, with some of that coming from MSA funds.

Nansen added that some of the stormwater work that was done for the crescent redevelopment area will be able to be assessed back to the lots when they go up for sale.

In 2010, the city is planning a landscaping project that will include entrance signs to the city. It is estimated at $413,000, and the city has received a grant for $260,000 to help with those costs.

"Until the project is complete, we won't know the final numbers," Nansen said.

The amounts that have been paid out are very close to the estimates at the start of the project, he added.

Besides the landscaping in 2010, the remainder of the project consists of the scenic overlook and boat launch area on the north side of the Detroit Lake, which still need to be finished this spring.

The Pelican River Watershed District, with funds from MnDOT and other entities, is also restoring the natural shoreline and plantings in that area.

There are some other miscellaneous items to finish this spring. Some turf may need planting, the Roosevelt Avenue underpass needs some painting yet, as does the retaining walls out by the lake.

"It just got too late in the fall," he said. "Rather than fight the cold, you get a better product when it's warmer."

There will be some trees and shrubbery planted in a couple areas throughout the project for beautification purposes -- mainly in the Graystone and Depot area and East Shore Drive. That's not to be mixed up with the city's plan that is more extensive.

Wahl said he has signed the agreement with right of way department to start the process of turning land back to the city in the redevelopment zone.

"Not a whole lot of work left to do. We got most of it done in '08 and a few things to wrap up in '09," he said.

Thanks to the quality of the Highway 10 project, MnDOT has received three statewide awards, including Work Zone Safety Award, Concrete Paving Award and a Bridge Award for projects in the $1 million-$5 million range for the Roosevelt Avenue underpass.

Wahl said the project has also been submitted for a national award through the American Concrete Pavement Association.

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