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Highway 10/59 project still on track

Who needs a corn maze when there is a several-mile-long maze of orange cones in Detroit lakes?

Despite all those cones, detours, etc., the Highway 10 realignment and Highway 59 bridge projects are on or ahead of schedule.

"Basically what I'm saying here is things are going well," said Jeff Perkins, resident construction engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Not only has the project so far been a success in terms of time, Hoffman Construction, contractor on the job, plans to speed up a few more portions of the project yet this fall.

Some portions are going to be accelerated this fall so when crews come back to town next spring, they can finish them up quicker and interfere less with the busier tourist season.

The two main places of acceleration will be Washington Avenue and the new frontage road, along Highway 10 east of town. Earthwork will be done this fall and a temporary pavement placed on the road where it ties into Highway 10. Come spring, the permanent pavement will be put in place.

Washington Avenue will be closed about three to four weeks this fall, mainly for the city's sewer and water construction work, which Perkins said will be a "significant cut" 30 feet down to the utilities. During the closure, traffic will be detoured to Lake Avenue.

The frontage road -- starting somewhere between Kris Street and Jackson Avenue running east to half a mile out of town past County Road 54 -- will be permanently paved with asphalt, and Highway 10 traffic will be re-routed on it for the winter.

Highway 10 needs to be paved before the crossing sections, Hoffman Construction Project Manager Chad Johnson said.

"It's not out of order, we just accelerated it," he said of the project schedule. All the details haven't been finalized though. He said the company's concern is getting the project done in a timely manner.

The existing frontage road won't be moved until next spring. Once the new one is in place -- the same road that is going to be used this winter as Highway 10 -- it will have a 3-foot buffer from the retaining wall, two 11-foot driving lanes and a 2- to 3-foot buffer to the curb before overlooking the lake.

By the time winter comes and people are driving on the frontage road, the County Road 54/53 realignment will be finished and in use.

But for the near future, the Roosevelt underpass is on schedule and is planned to open Aug. 27.

While it will be open to the public for driving, it might not be completely finished either. Johnson said if crews run short on time, they may have to finish up curbs and landscaping later.

The bridge overhead won't be completed for the new Highway 10 until after the underpass is opened and will cause minor road closures. Traffic will need to be stopped when beams for the bridge are being set, and rather than 15-minute intervals, crews will likely close Roosevelt Avenue for four-hour blocks during non-peak hours.

"It'll disrupt traffic for a few days, but it can allow us to set those beams more efficiently," Perkins said.

He added that after a Colorado bridge accident years ago, crews have stricter safety regulations with the road closures when beams are being set. Johnson said closing the road for beam placement is common practice.

Johnson said the Roosevelt Avenue underpass will be open Aug. 27 -- the end of the 50-day deadline -- but not likely any earlier.

"I'm not going to commit to anything before that," he said.

Just down the road from the Roosevelt Avenue underpass, crews have installed 144 feet of box culvert on the Pelican River.

Inside the culvert, at depths of 6-30 feet, rock riprap and some large boulders have been installed under the direction of the Department of Natural Resources.

Beginning next week, traffic will be switched to the north side of Highway 10 and the culvert will be installed in the remaining portion of the Highway 10-covered Pelican River.

"Before you now it, it'll all come together," Johnson said of the Highway 10 project as a whole.

Randolph Road is scheduled to close in late August or early September for up to five days, when crews will install the new railroad spur near UBC. The Roosevelt Avenue underpass will be open to traffic by then.

Jackson Avenue will be closed Aug. 20, for about four weeks, to realign the crossing and do sewer work.

Along the frontage road, the retaining wall is continuing to be built, and the sand piled by Country Inn and Suites (the new Country Road 53/54 alignment location), will be used as backfill along the retaining wall when the time comes.

The Highway 59 bridge is scheduled to be open Dec. 1. The project is about two weeks ahead of schedule.

On a side note: Johnson said the crew's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) visit "went very well. They found a few minor things that have since been corrected." He added that OSHA representatives will be back in October for another visit, but he was really pleased with the result of this visit.

Also, during the construction, Mn/DOT and the construction crews have been working with organizers of the Dick Beardsley Half Marathon so runners will have adequate accommodations for the run.