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County swallows hard and OKs bid for Highland Drive Project

The low bid was about $200,000 higher than the most recent engineer’s estimate, and about $460,000 higher than the original engineer’s estimate of $1.8 million in November.

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Traffic on Highland Drive near the Eighth Street intersection on Monday, July 19, 2021. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)
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DETROIT LAKES — Becker County commissioners gritted their teeth and agreed to move forward with the Highland Drive project, even though higher construction costs raised the overall price by about $460,000.

The board on Tuesday approved the low bid of $2.26 million from Sellin Brothers Inc. of Hawley. The second-place bid, by Mark Sand and Gravel of Fergus Falls, was $2.45 million.

The low bid was about $200,000 higher than the most recent engineer’s estimate of a few months ago, and about $460,000 higher than the original engineer’s estimate of $1.8 million in November.

Before the vote, commissioners discussed rejecting both bids and rebidding all or part of the project. “Rebidding is a possibility,” said Becker County Highway Engineer Jim Olson. “I could see some savings doing that — bituminous (pavement) is about a third again as high as estimated. But that road will need some work to get through winter.”

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Highland Drive is currently closed to vehicles over 5 ton axle weight. The rebuilt roadway is expected to handle vehicles twice that weight. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)

Highland Drive is largely a Detroit Township road, and has gotten into poor repair because the pavement is going to be torn up and replaced anyway.

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The county is involved because it is taking over Highland Drive, and in exchange turning over County Road 141 to Detroit Township.

After some discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to avoid the temporary repairs costs, accept the low bid, and proceed with the project.

Becker County is only responsible for paying $600,000 to $700,000 toward the overall project. That’s because Detroit Township, which owns most of Highland Drive, has landed a $1.25 million state grant for the project.

Becker County and Detroit Lakes earlier agreed to split the remaining project costs 60/40. Originally, that would have meant the county paid $330,000 and the city paid $270,000.

Now it means the county pays $600,000 to $700,000 and the city pays $500,000 to $600,000.

The city is involved because Detroit Lakes city limits bump up against the Highland Drive area on the east – there is city territory on both sides of Highland Drive, which runs between Highway 34 and Randolph Road, making it a natural connection between Highway 10 and Highway 34.

Highland Drive also ties into the city’s industrial park via Eighth Street – bringing truck traffic with it.

Detroit Lakes also owns and made improvements to the southern end of Highland Drive at Randolph Road, and will turn that section over to the county, which will own and maintain all of Highland Drive after the project is complete.

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The Detroit Lakes City Council still has to approve the low bid at its meeting on Monday, but city officials are well-aware of higher costs for street projects and the bid is expected to be accepted.

A rebuilt road

The Highland Drive project includes a full reconstruction, with 12-foot driving lanes and 6-foot shoulders, according to Detroit Township’s grant application. Turn and bypass lanes will be added at critical areas and intersections. Sub-grade in a few areas will be removed and replaced with suitable materials.

The 5-ton road will become a 10-ton road – better able to handle traffic to and from the Detroit Lakes industrial park. The 6-foot shoulders will provide space for pedestrians and bicyclists, and the higher weight limits will keep the road from crumbling under the weight of trucks.

The rebuilt Highland Drive will fit in well with improvements made earlier along Randolph Road and Highway 10. Randolph Road is now a 10-ton road, with wide shoulders for pedestrians and cyclists.

Construction starts this summer

Construction will start this summer and Olson expects pavement grinding and removal – and possibly the first layer of asphalt laid down – to be finished by Nov. 1 of this year. The entire project should be finished by June 1 of next year, he told commissioners on Tuesday. “We want it to sit over the winter and let it stabilize,” he said.

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