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Workers finish the concrete work along Highway 34 Thursday. Friday's rain set the project's final touches back again. Contractors hope to have the project completely done by Nov. 15, but the work will be weather-sensitive from now until the work is completed. (Sarah Smith/Enterprise)

Highway 34 construction comes to end of road in Park Rapids

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

PARK RAPIDS - Good things come to those who wait.

For Park Rapids residents, Nov. 15 can't come soon enough. That's the projected end date of a two-year-long road construction project through the heart of the city along Highway 34.

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But relief for some may be mixed with cautious optimism for others.

Workers finish the concrete work along Highway 34 Thursday. Friday's rain set the project's final touches back again. Contractors hope to have the project completely done by Nov. 15, but the work will be weather-sensitive from now until the work is completed. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

"It's definitely hurt business," said Marc Thielen. Thielen Motors has taken its share of the pain caused by the project.

"Any time it's not convenient to travel through town, it's not good," Thielen said.

Car sales have diminished, and Thielen now faces spending thousands of dollars to construct a new parking lot, move its lot lights and move back in to its central place of business.

The company moved a mobile home on land it owned across the highway, cobbled together temporary offices, then moved its fleet of vehicles across the street when pavers hampered access to the dealership. Sales associates run back and forth across the highway to complete transactions, Thielen said. The mobile home doesn't have the office equipment to print out final sales documents.

"If we hadn't owned this lot we would have had to move to the fairgrounds or rent another lot," Thielen said.

Because the project gobbled up right-of-way on both sides of the highway, adding two lanes of traffic, Thielen had to move its main lot back at least 20 feet. It lost space for 56 vehicles along the roadway, Thielen said.

That started a chain of events that resulted in the dealership having to move all of its lights and fill in the back portion of its lot for eventual paving, Thielen said.

Normally the dealership has 200 vehicles in its inventory, but it has reduced that number due to the economy, yearend market conditions and the construction, Thielen said.

Contractors said Thursday it will take about another week to finish the road striping. Early next week the driveway paving to businesses along the stretch of highway will be finished, weather permitting, and then the dirt and sod work will begin behind the sidewalks.

Streetlights have been turned on at the intersections of Henrietta and Central avenues, but won't be fully operational until the project is completed, said MN DOT project supervisor Larry Randall. The four-way stop signs will remain in place until the traffic signals are functional. Currently the stoplights are flashing red from all directions.

Scenic outlooks over the Fish Hook River were raised to meet the new elevation, and fencing work around those overlooks will be completed this week.

When the striping is finished, traffic will be routed to the center lanes while work is completed on the two outside lanes of traffic, Randall said.

Contractors hope the weather allows the final landscaping and sod work that remains.

Thielen, meanwhile, hopes moderate temperatures will allow the dealership to pave its lot before winter sets in.

"We're optimistic it'll work out on our favor," he said, looking over his muddy, empty lot.

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