I-35 construction hits home for Carlton County

Motorists driving in and out of Carlton County will be faced with some significant roadwork this spring and summer, some of it starting as early as May.

Motorists driving in and out of Carlton County will be faced with some significant roadwork this spring and summer, some of it starting as early as May.

According to Krysten Saatela, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) District One (Duluth) engineer, this summer's most relevant traffic impacts for Carlton County will include I-35 northbound from Moose Lake to Barnum and the stretch of I-35 between Scanlon and Esko.

The upgrade project from Moose Lake to Barnum will involve an unbonded concrete overlay from 3.1 miles south of Highway 73 in Moose Lake to 2.6 miles south of County Road 4 in Barnum. It will include bridge repair and a bridge approach replacement at the County Road 6 bridge over I-35 in Barnum. Ramp reconstruction will also take place at the County Road 6 and Highway 27 ramps, and drainage repairs will be performed throughout the project area as well.

The project is expected to last from mid-May through mid-August, starting in one lane from the south end of the project and then working back from the north, followed by the same procedure for the other lane. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $22.7 million.

The northbound ramp at Highway 27 will close for 21 calendar days sometime this summer due to project construction, and the County Road 6 northbound ramp and bridge will close for 19 calendar days this summer as well.


"Originally, the Barnum bridge work was supposed to be done earlier," said MnDOT project engineer Aaron Gunderson, "but we are still in negotiations with the contractor so that work will be delayed somewhat."

Gunderson said there has been some confusion over the timing of the bridge project because MnDOT recently conducted its annual bridge inspections and there have been paint markings and signage in the vicinity of the bridge.

He said this is not an indication that the bridge project is about to start, as some folks have mistakenly believed.

"Since the bridge will be closed for 19 days during the project," he said, "we are going to try to miss [working on it during] the school year as well as Spring Fever Days to minimize the impact to the local community and yet try to get the entire project done as soon as possible."

Gunderson said measures have been taken to streamline the I-35 project as much as possible, including the construction of a series of crossovers last season that will expedite the transition of traffic to the one-lane format, which he said should shave several days off the length of the project.

The unbonded concrete overlay of I-35 between Scanlon and Esko will involve approximately 10 miles of new concrete surfacing and drainage repairs in both directions. It will include new paved shoulders and guardrail, as well as drainage and bridge improvements.

The project, which will get under way in May, will necessitate single-lane traffic between Scanlon and Esko. Work on this phase of the project is scheduled to go on through October, with the second phase from Esko to Proctor slated for completion in 2013.

Overall cost of the project is $30,107,574.


Saatela and Gunderson said that suggested alternate routes along these sections of the I-35 construction project include Highway 61 from either Hinckley or Sandstone to Carlton, or Highway 23 from Sandstone to Duluth.

MnDOT officials advise motorists plan ahead to avoid the heaviest travel times on I-35 or use one of these alternative routes, especially during holiday or major event weekends. Peak traffic levels on I-35 between the Twin Cities and Duluth typically occur between noon and 8 p.m. on Fridays and between noon and 6 p.m. on Sundays.

MnDOT representatives have met with Carlton County business owners to explain the project and its impact on traffic flow to the area, and they met with the county's emergency responders at the Esko Fire Hall on Thursday to go over plans for alternate emergency response routes during the time of the road construction projects.

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