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Area braces for another round of road work

Though the area is still steeped in several feet of snow, one thing is more certain than spring this year - road work. And folks from Carlton County and surrounding areas can plan on plenty of it, according to District State Aid Engineer Walter L...

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Though the area is still steeped in several feet of snow, one thing is more certain than spring this year - road work. And folks from Carlton County and surrounding areas can plan on plenty of it, according to District State Aid Engineer Walter Leu of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

Leu addressed members of the Carlton County Board Monday on behalf of the Area Transportation Partnership, detailing MnDOT's planned road construction plan for 2013. The project he said will likely impact the most motorists is the continuation of the I-35 concrete overlay that began last summer. Leu said this year's phase of the $30 million project will extend from Esko to Proctor and will result in major travel impacts from May through late fall.

"There will be lane restrictions in both directions on I-35 for most of the summer," Leu verified.

Commissioner Marvin Bodie questioned how the project would impact the I-35 interchange leading to the Buffalo House and/or the rerouting of traffic through Esko. Leu confirmed that particular interchange will be closed "for quite a long time" during the summer and that local traffic will be detoured along Highway 61 in much the same manner as last summer.

Leu said work on the Highway 210 Bridge in Thomson will be finished up this summer as well. Though most of the $1.27 million bridge-replacement project and additional flood-related repairs have been completed, an epoxy chip seal still needs to be applied to the bridge deck, fascia beams painted and a special surface finish applied to the concrete. The work is slated to be done between May 13 and June 14.

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The I-35 Bridge in Scanlon is slated for rehabilitation between August and November, resulting in intermittent single-lane closures and related detours along County Roads 13 and 138.

Highway 33 north of Cloquet will undergo resurfacing, rehabilitation and culvert repairs between June and September, and Leu said motorists can expect single-lane closures during intermittently through construction period.

The bridge leading to Oldenburg Point in Jay Cooke State Park is slated to be rebuilt this summer as well, with construction set to last from June to November. Since Highway 210 has been closed in that area since last year's June flooding, there should be no impact on motorists for this $4 million project.

Finally, district-wide centerline rumble strips will be applied along highways 2, 53, 61 and 210 between August and November, necessitating occasional single-lane traffic closures during that construction period along the various roadways affected.

Milt Hagen of the Carlton County Transportation Department outlined federally funded projects slated for Carlton County roads this summer. Among them are a bike trail connection from University Road to Pinewood Drive on the Fond du Lac Reservation; construction of a 10-foot-wide trail to connect the Esko schools to a primary residential area along Highway 61 east of town; completion of the Munger Trail Connection to Highway 1 in Carlton; and improvements to the intersections of University and Reservation roads with Big Lake Road.

District 11A State Representative Mike Sundin was also on hand at Monday's board meeting to update commissioners on the status of county-related issues in the current session of the Legislature. He said the bill supporting the expansion of the successful Carlton County-based TXT4Life program to a statewide basis is progressing through the various committees.

"It really has some legs," said Sundin, "and it looks pretty good."

He also said the bill in support of a Moose Lake sales tax is working its way through the necessary channels, as well as a bonding proposal for a new Moose Lake school, though he said the school project is "a bit of a heavier lift."

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The $13 million Big Lake Sanitary District proposal is currently in hearings in both the House and Senate, said Sundin, and he said it has garnered considerable support.

A proposal for a Sawyer Cemetery District has hit a couple of snags, according to Sundin, but he said information is still being supplied to legislators to help straighten out the issues in question.

Sundin informed commissioners that a Wheelage Tax has been proposed on behalf of all 87 counties that would allow individual counties to assess $20 per vehicle on registration fees to assist with the maintenance of county roads. For more information on the proposal, Sundin said residents can log on to the Minnesota State Legislature website, leg.state.mn.us, go to "Bill Topics" and click on "Wheelage Taxes."

Sundin said that during the off session, he plans on assembling a working group to look at the safety and condition of Highway 73 in Carlton County, to include at least one county commissioner, county development experts and representatives of government entities in Cromwell and Moose Lake. He said one of the areas the group will be looking at is various funding mechanisms that could be accessed to help fund such a project.

The board unanimously supported the hiring of Michael Tardy as the new county engineer, replacing retired engineer Wayne Olson beginning this week. Tardy was formerly a construction engineer with MnDOT.

Related Topics: CARLTON COUNTY
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