Detroit Township has landed a $1.25 million state grant to improve Highland Drive, and with the help of Becker County, plans to rebuild and expand the existing 24-foot roadway to 36 feet by adding 6-foot shoulders.

“The road is very worn out and kind of narrow, it doesn’t have anything for shoulders,” said Becker County highway engineer Jim Olson. The pavement has various forms of moderate to severe cracking, rutting, heaves and potholes, according to the grant application, and the road has other problems, such as steep in-slopes and nonconforming curves and grades.

As the city has grown, so has traffic on Highland Drive, which now carries about 2,000 vehicles a day, including about 200 heavy trucks from the Detroit Lakes industrial park.

“The township has a 5-ton limit (on Highland Drive) to keep heavy trucks off. It’s kind of handy for some commercial vehicles to cut through (Highway) 34 and 10 or even the industrial park, and the road is not really built for that,” Olson said.

Highland Drive runs on high ground along roughly the eastern city limits of Detroit Lakes, connecting Highway 34 and (indirectly, through Randolph Road) Highway 10.

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As part of the project, the 5-ton road will become a 10-ton road better able to handle traffic to and from the Detroit Lakes industrial park, which connects to Highland Drive via Eighth Street. 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 heavier trucks.

Project managers will meet with Highland Drive residents to discuss the project, Olson said. Temporary slope easements will likely be needed along some properties to allow for proper grading of ditches and smooth transitions to residential yards, for example.

The $1.25 million Local Road Improvement Grant does not require any local match. But local dollars or in-kind work will be needed, since the total cost of the project, including construction, design, engineering and other costs is estimated at about $1.8 million, said Olson. The county may do some of the design and engineering work in-house, Olson said.

Construction is expected to start next spring. The gant is good for three years, but Olson said the township wants to get it done as soon as possible. “The tentative plan is to go for next summer,” he said.”The sooner the better with that road.”

The proposed improvement includes “a full reconstruction of Highland Drive along its entire length,” with 12-foot driving lanes and 6-foot shoulders, according to the grant application. Turn and bypass lanes will be added at critical areas and intersections. Subgrade in a few areas will be removed and replaced with suitable materials.

The rebuilt Highland Drive will mesh well with improvements made last year along Randolph Road and Highway 10. Randolph Road is now a 10-ton road with wide shoulders for pedestrians and cyclists.

Traffic lights were installed at Highway 10 and County Road 54, and signal and safety improvements were made at the Highway 10- Randolph Road-Kris Street intersection.

“These improvements were aimed directly at improving mobility and safety and reducing traffic congestion along Highway 10 and the local adjacent street network,” according to the grant application. “Improvements to Highland Drive are essentially a subsequent phase and need arising from these improvements (which will lead to) Highland Drive seeing increased use.”

The county sponsored the township’s grant application, which was supported by the city, MnDOT, the chamber of commerce and the Detroit Lakes School District.

Detroit Township and the city of Detroit Lakes will continue to plow and maintain Highland Drive after the project is completed.