Next up: Construction season
Construction on the roundabout at the intersection of Highway 59 and Willow Street will start next month and should be finished before the WE Fest crowds arrive in early August.
The $1.7 million project will start May 12 and will involve periodic closures on Willow Street and Long Lake Road — though Highway 59 will remain open throughout construction work, said Tom Lundberg, district engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Detroit Lakes.
The oval-shaped roundabout will be designed to allow oversized truck loads — including trucks hauling wind turbine propellers and manufactured homes — to pass through, though some large farm combines will not be able to use the intersection, Lundberg said.
“Permitted loads that are allowed on the highway can use it — big loads can go over the raised curb area,” he said.
The roundabout will reduce the percentage of fatal accidents at the intersection by about 90 percent, largely because it slows the stream of traffic on Highway 59, Lundberg said.
“It’s a really nice feature, it slows cars down,” he said. “The severity of crashes goes down a lot, and it processes more cars than an intersection that is signalized.”
A roundabout reduces the number of potential conflict points from 32 to eight.
The city will pay about $500,000 towards the project and the state will pay the rest, he said.
There isn’t enough room for a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 59 and County Road 22 (the Shoreham Road). It would cut into the executive golf course at the Detroit Country Club, so MnDOT will look at putting traffic lights at that junction.
The new roundabout may be unfamiliar to area drivers, but they are simple to drive through.
“When you pull up to the roundabout, you yield to the person in the roundabout,” Lundberg said. “If nobody is there you can go on, just go at a nice slow speed. If someone is in your way you let them go by and jump in.”
Landwehr Construction of St. Cloud is the main contractor.
Another major project is scheduled to begin in August: Highway 34 from Detroit Lakes to Akeley has been funded with special bonding money as a “Corridor of Commerce” project.
Turning and passing lanes will be built at eight sites, mostly to improve traffic flow, but also to “improve sites with crash histories,” Lundberg said.
Here are the improvements planned for Highway 34 in Becker County:
- Additional turn lanes at Becker County Road 141, just across the Pelican River, and at Becker County Road 25.
- An eastbound passing lane will start just after County Road 25 and extend to the Erie Hill area, located a few miles east of Detroit Lakes.
- The Four Corners intersection at Highway 34 and County Road 29 will be compressed and rebuilt to make it safer and less confusing for drivers.
- Eastbound and westbound passing lanes will be added starting at County Road 56 and heading further east.
- One westbound passing lane will start just east of Snellman, followed by an eastbound passing lane further east.
- Eastbound and westbound passing lanes will start east of Osage and head further east (including a space for possible future Heartland trail on the north side.)
Work will proceed until freeze-up this year. Highway 34 will remain open to traffic during construction, with lane closures.
In Hubbard County, work won’t begin until next year. Westbound followed by eastbound passing lanes will be built between Nevis and Akeley. The entire project will cost $10 million.
Starting next month, work will begin on a $4.8 million resurfacing and culvert replacement project on Highway 59, from Detroit Lakes to the Buffalo River north of Callaway. Central Specialties of Alexandria is the main contractor for the 14-mile project. Watch for detours and lane closures.
This summer, a $750,000 frontage road project is planned for the south side of Highway 10 in Lake Park. The project will improve access and construct a south-side frontage road. Watch for occasional lane closures.
Also in Becker County, aggregate shoulders will be added on Highway 225 near Osage.
And a culvert replacement project will take place on Highway 87.
Also, on Highway 10, pavement messages will be replaced, requiring occasional lane closures.
Those traveling to Fargo-Moorhead, take note: Starting next month, a bridge replacement project is set for Highway 10 near the Buffalo River Speedway.
The eastbound bridge over the Buffalo River will be replaced east of Highway 9, requiring crossovers with two-lane, two-way traffic.
The $1.2 million project is set for completion in August. The main contractor is Robert R. Schroeder Construction of Glenwood.
In all, MnDOT is planning 308 construction projects this summer, with a total cost of $1.1 billion.
Of that, $62 million will be spent in District 4, which stretches from Mahnomen County to Swift and Big Stone counties, and includes Becker, Clay and Otter Tail counties.
That doesn’t include the cost of all the planning, land acquisition and other pre-construction work, MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle said in a live-streamed appearance from St. Paul with reporters Thursday in Detroit Lakes.
“I always refer to that as being like building a Vikings stadium all in one construction season,” he said.
Susan Mulvihill, deputy MnDOT commissioner, said the work means thousands of construction jobs, and helps keep the state’s infrastructure in good condition, which is vital to the economy and way of life in Minnesota, he said.
Zelle pointed with pride to the $300 million statewide “corridors of commerce” project, paid for with special bonding money.
“We look at that as a down payment to show what MnDOT will do with additional funding to solve bottleneck issues across the state,” he said.
But there are storm clouds on the horizon.
Zelle expects a similar-sized construction budget for next year, but after that funding problems will set in.
“After that, funding constraints will really restrain the level of construction as you get out three, four, five years — there’s no question this is a problem for the state.”
Minnesota needs to find a way to maintain its long-term construction funding, threatened by lower gas tax revenues as more fuel-efficient vehicles began to predominate.
“We’re hoping that in a legislative session in the future, long-term funding solutions will be found,” he said.
This winter has been tough on the highway system, he added.
“We have a pothole issue throughout the state,” Zelle said. “It really indicates the underlying condition of our infrastructure and the need for a long-term (funding) solution.”
“The freeze-thaw of this difficult spring is kind of adding to a lot of pothole conditions that we may have,” said Trudy Kordosky, MnDOT District 4 resident engineer.
She told WDAY TV that: “It’s unfortunate that we’re having snow on our spring construction kickoff announcement, but we’ll have to wait and see (if the long winter will impact the start of the road construction season). Hopefully spring will arrive soon and we can get started.”
State officials also issued a plea for drivers to be alert and careful in construction zones.
“This summer as you travel through the state, especially through these construction zones, take driving seriously,” said Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol.