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Letting go of Airport Road

Airport Road will eventually be closed, but when that happens is anyone’s guess at this point.

But, since it will be closed within the next several years, the city is forgoing any major work on it.

“It had deteriorated to a point of not spending more time and money maintaining it,” City Administrator Bob Louiseau said.

When Airport Road was built, it was never meant for the traffic it has seen. Originally used as an access for Long Lake area residents to Highway 10, Walmart and Menards then came to Detroit Lakes, exponentially increasing traffic counts on the road, and therefore damaging it more and more.

So with the rising – or rather sinking – number of potholes and crumbing asphalt along the road, the city tore up the asphalt last year and turned it into a gravel road.

Louiseau said the soil under the road is poor, and unless there is earthwork done and a complete reconstruction, the road will never really improve.

With that in mind, the city decided not to sink the money into a reconstruction, knowing it would be closing in the foreseeable future anyway.

The main reason Airport Road will eventually be closed is its namesake, the Detroit Lakes/Becker County Airport. Regardless of whether the runway expands or not – which has been a debated issue for years – the road has to go.

Now, Highway 10 is in a clear zone, which Louiseau said isn’t good. The state and federal aviation authorities have given the airport a waiver, but if any work is done at the airport, that waiver will be void and the runway will have to be moved 1,500 feet to the southeast.

At some point, the runway will need reconstruction as any street does, and when that happens, the runway will shift and Airport Road will close.

Louiseau said that in 2010, the airport was “dinged pretty good” because of the quality of the runway, meaning it needs to be reconstructed in the near future.

A few years ago when the runway had some work done to it, the work was estimated to last 10 years, give or take a few years.

With the planned road construction west of town of a roundabout at Highway 59 and Willow Street, and the frontage road and Highway 10 work, Airport Road won’t be closed for a couple more years at least.

After that though, the project will likely happen. Louiseau said he understands losing Airport Road “will be some inconvenience” when it’s closed, but the city is also working on a reasonable alternative route to Highway 10.

One of those alternatives will likely be a parkway-style road connecting County Road 6, along the west side of Long Lake to Highway 10, with wide medians and trees planted between the lanes.

“It’s not in our current five year plan, but it is in the long-range plan,” he said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.