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Road improvements coming to Moose Lake

With the new school opening in Moose Lake next fall, the southern Carlton County town is getting some pretty expensive road improvements to handle the increased traffic south of the city.

The Carlton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to pass a resolution for the county to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the reconstruction of State Highway 73 in Moose Lake. The county's participation includes construction of a roundabout at the County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 10 intersection, upgrading the traffic signal at the CSAH 61 intersection with Highway 73, and paving 700 feet of the CSAH 61 to 73. Bids were opened by MnDOT March 24 with Northland Construction submitting the apparent low bid in the amount of $7.12 million. The work is expected to start this spring and be completed in the fall.

The roundabout will be the first in Carlton County. In addition to the roundabout, MnDOT also considered a traffic signal, four-way stop and leaving the intersection as is. After evaluating all of the information it was decided a roundabout would be the safest option for the intersection.

"A roundabout was the best option as the intersection did not warrant a traffic signal and doing nothing was not an option," said Carlton County Engineer Mike Tardy. "A roundabout keeps the flow of traffic moving and is proven to slow down traffic, which means fewer fatal accidents."

While roundabouts are more expensive than a traffic light, there is evidence the cost is worth it.

Roundabouts show a 89 percent decrease in fatal crashes, a 74 percent decrease in life-altering injury crashes and a 39 percent decrease in all crashes, according to the MnDOT website.

The roundabout will help improve traffic flow with less delay with the increased traffic expected due to the new school opening this fall. Roundabouts also promote better fuel efficiency and air quality when they replace stop lights because idling decreases, which reduces vehicle emissions and fuel consumption by 30 percent or more.

Carlton County's share of the project cost is $452,000, which is eligible for state aid funding. Of that, roughly $300,000 will be reimbursed to the county with federal funds added to a 2021 federally funded county project.

In other board news Monday:

• A speed study was approved for CSAH 10 in front of the new Moose Lake School.

• A Safe Routes to School project will begin in Barnum this May.

• Mike Tardy, Carlton County engineer, retires Thursday, March 30.

• JinYeene Neumann has accepted the position as Carlton County engineer.

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