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Help for ailing Airport Road

We were glad to see the Detroit Lakes City Council took action to at least temporarily improve Airport Road.

The council agreed to spend $45,000 to apply Otta seal to the street, which is used by many as a back route to the Walmart-Menards area.

An Otta seal is kind of a seal-coat on steroids: It’s an asphalt surface made by spreading gravel on top of a soft bituminous layer. Traffic helps form it into a hard, durable surface.

A double-application of Otta seal has a life expectancy of eight to 15 years and is not recommended where traffic volume is above 2,000 vehicles a day, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation website.

The city is going to put down a double-application and hope to get a good three or four years out of it, since summer traffic volumes on Airport Road can reach 3,000 vehicles a day, said City Engineer Jon Pratt. Heavy trucks have been barred from the road.

In three or four years it’s expected that the long-delayed airport runway project will begin. Then Airport Road will be closed for good. The city is looking at other routes to take its place.

Airport Road went from a paved road to a gravel road last year when the deteriorating asphalt was deemed too far gone to repair anymore.

City officials have been loath to sink much money into the road, because it has long been destined to be closed when the main airport runway is either extended or moved.

Even if runway extension plans ultimately fall through, the existing runway will have to be moved away from Highway 10 at some point, said Detroit Lakes City Administrator Bob Louiseau.

That’s because the Federal Aviation Administration will only grandfather in the runway footprint as long as it can be resurfaced.

When more extensive rebuilding is required, the grandfather status is removed and the FAA runway protection zone will kick in, forcing the existing runway to be moved further away from Highway 10.

We’re especially glad to see action taken on Airport Road, because it will be used as an unofficial detour for the month or so, starting May 15, that Long Lake Road is closed as the new roundabout is built on Highway 59.

Unfortunately, the timing is going to stink on the Otta seal project. The city can’t get the special oil needed for the work until mid-May, after the Long Lake Road-Highway 59 intersection is closed.

That means for a day or two, while the Otta seal is being applied, everybody who lives in the Long Lake Road area will have to get in and out the inconvenient way — via County Road 6.

But it will be worth it in the long run. The Otta seal pavement will be a great improvement over the current gravel road, although it could be a lot worse, since city crews have been blading it several times a week, said Public Works Director Brad Green.

An improved Airport Road will also be useful when the Highway 10 West project begins next year, since the road is bound to see increased traffic as motorists seek to avoid road construction any way they can.

Airport Road has been inlimbo for too long because of the airport runway issue, this project will make its last few years of life useful ones.