Reconstruction of Highway 33 intersection on hold until 2012The news was not all good last Tuesday as Milt Hagen of the Carlton County Transportation Department updated members of the Committee of the Whole regarding this summer’s road projects in the county.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The news was not all good last Tuesday as Milt Hagen of the Carlton County Transportation Department updated members of the Committee of the Whole regarding this summer’s road projects in the county.
Though several significant road upgrades are on tap for coming months, the long-anticipated reconstruction of the intersection of Highway 33 and County Road 7 (Big Lake Road) has once again been put on hold – this time until 2012.
Planning for the intersection reconstruction project has been a cooperative venture between the city of Cloquet, Carlton County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation that has been under consideration for the past several years. Numerous problems in and around the area of the busy intersection have impacted both the traffic flow on the primary roadways as well as the ingress and egress to and from the Pine Tree Plaza, creating frequent traffic backups and accidents.
“A preliminary plan [for the reconstruction of the intersection] was submitted to MnDOT in 2006,” outlined Jim Prusak, engineer for the city of Cloquet, in a later interview. “Recently, we were notified we had to submit a new funding application for the project, so then it went back into the five-year state transportation improvement program. [County Engineer] Wayne Olson and I attended a meeting last week and found out funding for the project had been approved for the year 2012. Unless some other projects drop out in the meantime, that is when it will have to be done.”
Prusak said the ultimate scope of the proposed project would be a total replacement of the signal system at that intersection, the addition of a turn lane along County Road 7, and the possible widening and lengthening of the current turn lanes on Highway 33. He said the current traffic lights operate on a “split phase” basis, which means the traffic on the north- and south-bound lanes turn separately rather than simultaneously, causing longer delays while traffic is waiting for the light to turn.
He said though there is also some congestion caused by the traffic going in and out of the gas station to the east of Highway 33, the major problems primarily come from the Big Lake Road side of the roadway.
“We may have to take another look at the whole scope of the project,” Prusak admitted. “We had originally hoped to at least do something ‘quick and dirty’ on our own in order to take care of some of the problems there, but then we would lose the bulk of our state and federal funding. There may be some short-term improvements we can make in the meantime.”
The anticipated federal funding for the intersection reconstruction would amount to some $600,000, with a lesser amount of local and county funding required as well, in addition to some funding through the transportation gas tax appropriations.
“Since the new gas tax passed,” Prusak said, “the road funding picture is looking better with MnDOT. Prior to that, it was looking pretty bleak.”
According to Hagen, some of the road projects in the county to get the green light for this summer include bituminous upgrades of North Cloquet Road from Highway 33 to Crosby Road; County Road 8 from Highway 23 to County Road 145 in Holyoke; County Road 104 running two miles south from County Road 4; Moorhead Road from Highway 210 to Cary Road; Freeman Road from Highway 33 to Stark Road; Prevost Road from North Cloquet Road to Stark Road; and Crosby Road from Stark Road to the north county line. The planned 2008 projects also include construction of Phase One of the St. Louis River Trail from the Munger Trail Parking lot in Carlton to the I-35 Park and Ride lot in Scanlon.
Hagen said the scheduled construction of a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks along Fourth Street in Carlton is still pending after the original plan was altered to a more sophisticated overpass along Highway 1 in order to accommodate snowmobiles as well as pedestrians. He said the original legislation approving the appropriation for the overpass on Highway 4 will have to first be amended. He added that the scheduled improvements to the Pfeifer Road railroad crossing south of Highway 210 west of Carlton are also pending at the moment, due to the higher costs associated with acquiring right-of-way along trust lands on the Fond du Lac Reservation.