Intersection of Highway 33, Big Lake Road to be reconfigured in 2012Motorists who have stacked up in lengthy queues to get into Pine Tree Plaza, or who have waited through two traffic cycles to get to the green light at the intersection of Highway 33, or who have had to dart in front of another car to make a left-hand turn off County Road 7 (Big Lake Road) will be relieved to know there is hope in sight. A plan to reconfigure Cloquet’s notoriously bottlenecked area has made it to next year’s Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) work schedule.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Motorists who have stacked up in lengthy queues to get into Pine Tree Plaza, or who have waited through two traffic cycles to get to the green light at the intersection of Highway 33, or who have had to dart in front of another car to make a left-hand turn off County Road 7 (Big Lake Road) will be relieved to know there is hope in sight. A plan to reconfigure Cloquet’s notoriously bottlenecked area has made it to next year’s Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) work schedule.
In an update before the Carlton County Board on Monday, MnDOT’s Walter Leu told commissioners that intersection improvements to the confluence of the three roadways in Cloquet are on tap for the summer of 2012. He said the project will include the retiming of traffic signals, the widening of roadways and improvements to the connection to Pine Tree Plaza.
“We are going to try to get rid of the split phasing to eliminate waiting,” explained Leu in regard to the primary entrance to the mall off Big Lake Road, which has long been a cause for congestion during rush hour and other peak traffic times.
The project will be a cooperative venture among MnDOT, Carlton County and the city of Cloquet, with Cloquet City Engineer Jim Prusak taking the lead on the project.
Total cost of the project will be $750,000, $600,000 of which will come through federal funding and $150,000 of which will be local.
Leu further stated there is a chance that a planned $4.6 million deep mill and overlay along Highway 33 from I-35 to the junction of County Road 7 in Cloquet, originally slated for 2015, might be moved up a couple of years after the successful completion of the 2012 intersection redo.
Other road projects slated for Carlton County in 2012 include the construction of a trail connection from the Munger Trail to County Highway 1 in Carlton; bridge repair on Highway 210 one mile east of Highway 45; and construction along Pfeifer Road in Twin Lakes Township, to include the removal of a 10-foot raised crossing.
In other business to come before the county board, a public hearing to solicit public input on a proposed cartway in Clear Creek Township garnered considerable debate. The petition for the cartway comes from Shawn Sunnarborg on behalf of Potlatch Minnesota Timberlands. The cartway (essentially, a public access road to an otherwise land-locked parcel of property) would run across property owned by Robert and Laura Groth of Holyoke.
Sunnarborg explained that Potlatch has negotiated a land sale of the approximately 1,400 acres of property to a company known as Land and Cabins, which plans to divide the property up and resell it as 40-, 60- and 120-acre parcels. He added that Potlatch has utilized the existing forest road leading to the property through the Groth property for the past 50 years, with the understanding it was a public road. He said Potlatch has had numerous discussions with the Groth family about securing rights to utilize the road privately but with no success.
Members of the Groth family who were present at the public hearing objected to the proposed route of the cartway, fearing that additional traffic and land use generated under the new ownership could cause disruption of their rural lifestyle and citing concerns for livestock that graze on their property in the vicinity of the proposed cartway as well as possible tax increases after power lines are run into the property.
Commissioner Ted Pihlman clarified that state law requires a cartway be established by a town board (or the county in the case of an unorganized township) for any parcel of land of five acres or more if it is not accessible by any other roadway. Two other options for the cartway to the Potlatch land have been considered, but Sunnarborg pointed out that one requires crossing a river and the other contains wetlands and necessitates crossing other landowners’ properties.
In an effort to work through the Groths’ concerns, Sunnarborg informed them they could request the cartway be private, with access limited to land owners only through the installation of a locked gate if desired.
At that point, the board voted to bring the public hearing to a close, with Commissioner Ted Pihlman casting the lone no vote. The board then voted to table the cartway request until the June 14 meeting.
Finally, the board set a public hearing date of June 14 to consider an application from Leemo’s Northstar for an offsale liquor permit.