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Maintenance key to Minnesota Highway 33 development plan, business owners say

Business owners provided feedback on proposed designs for improving pedestrian and bike traffic on Minnesota Highway 33 slated to take place when MnDOT plans to resurface the highway in 2029.

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Paige Melius, senior planner for the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, presented a transportation plan for Minnesota Highway 33 to local business owners on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — Business owners got the chance to provide feedback on a transportation plan for improvements along Minnesota Highway 33 on Wednesday, Dec. 7, with maintenance of proposed pedestrian and bike paths coming to the forefront as a key concern.

Paige Melius, senior planner for the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, presented the plan to those in attendance and and said it was being used to increase accessibility in the area.

The proposal would align with the city’s comprehensive plan and be incorporated with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s long-term plan of resurfacing Highway 33 in 2029. Further planning would likely take place in the coming years, but officials expect that construction would begin on the improvements in 2029.

The transportation plan was broken down into four segments: the first being from Interstate 35 to Doddridge Avenue; the second from Doddridge Avenue to Cloquet Avenue; the third focusing on the bridge over the St. Louis River; and the final section running from the St. Louis River north.

Melius said the goal of the plan would be to increase biking and walking with expanded paths along Highway 33. Increasing accessibility for those interested in walking or biking would not only be good for business, Melius said, but it would also be good for people's health as well. The planned multi-use trail would also increase access for residents on the west side of the city to get over to the east side.

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According to the proposal, accessibility would be tackled a little differently in each section.

  • The first section would include a 10-foot wide multi-use trail along the frontage road, on the eastern side of Highway 33.
  • The second section, which Melius said was the most important as it is expected to have the most traffic, would have a multi-use trail along the western side of Highway 33.
  • The third section, which is just the bridge, would have painted bike lanes upon it on both sides of the road.
  • The final section would have a raised bike lane installed along both sides of Highway 33.

Dan Lundquist, owner of Gordy's Hi-Hat and an active bicyclist, said he was concerned about how the trails will be maintained if they move forward, especially on the bridge.

"My biggest complaint about the corridor, from the bridge north, is that there is lack of maintenance," he said.

Lundquist has seen people walk over the bridge and then have to walk on the road to Community Memorial Hospital because the sidewalks have not been cleared of snow in the winter, he said.

"It is really the only link from Sunnyside to the other side of town," he said. "(They are) the only sidewalks available."

Lundquist thought the plan looked good, but he said he hoped there would be funds to care for and maintain the trails down the road.

When asked why the trail crossed from the east of Highway 33 to the west at the intersection of Big Lake Road, Melius said one of the reasons was because of where the snowmobile trail is.

While snowmobiles are not in MnDOT's plans, Melius said that with the big culture of snowmobiling in the area, it would be bad planning to not make the considerations.

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"We want to make sure it is safe for everyone, all users, and that includes those machine users as well," she said.

Caleb Peterson, Cloquet's public works director, said the plan is a way for the city to have a say as MnDOT moves the project from its long-term to short-term plan.

Because the plan follows where the federal government is leaning — toward more accessibility and greener travel — the city's plan could potentially bring in more funding when the time comes, Peterson said.

More information on the proposed improvements can be found online.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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