St. Louis County undertakes robust road, bridge improvements in 2021

At $ 6.1 million, this is the most expensive $ 64 million improvement offer project to launch this spring.

“It was essentially built through a swamp for most of it,” said Matt Hemmila, assistant director of public works for St. Louis County, on County Road 29. “It doesn’t have a very strong base.” If you drove with it, you spilled your coffee. “

A total of 76 miles of country roads will be paved again and an additional 83 miles will be preventive maintenance. The projects aim to add new layers of asphalt to roads that are still healthy. Another 40 km of gravel roads will attract attention and 14 bridges will be replaced.

A driver on Morris Thomas Road waits to turn onto US Highway 2 on Sunday, April 11, 2021. St. Louis County will make the intersection safer this year – by moving Morris Thomas to cross Highway 2 at a right angle and turn left lanes onto Highway 2. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

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The county maintains 3,000 miles of roads. At the start of the construction campaign, only 12% of the paved roads, or 180 miles, remained classified as in very poor condition, and a dwindling number of bridges, 51 out of approximately 600, were considered defective.

In the years following the June 2012 flood that devastated infrastructure, the county has turned its attention back to roads and bridges.

The county has used its 0.5% sales tax waived in 2015 and low-interest loan borrowing as a formula for creating robust annual construction programs valued at $ 50 million and above. It is planned to continue on this path until 2024.

“With all the money we’ve invested since the flood, it’s definitely going to be a lot harder to find a really bad road,” said Hemmila. “We’re trying to keep them in better shape than before.”

St. Louis County uses a 0.5% tax to fund highway projects.  (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

St. Louis County uses a 0.5% tax to fund highway projects. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

Only $ 5.5 million to build county roads and bridges this year came from the local tax levy. The remainder is made up of $ 32 million for bonding and transportation sales tax funds, $ 11 million for state aid, $ 9 million for federal funding, $ 2 million for state bridge funds, and $ 4 million for various others Partnerships together.

What this money brings in is a project like the one planned for Morris Thomas Road – a dual safety and road improvement project that will restore the 4.6 mile walkway to Haines Road and correct the Morris Thomas intersection with US Highway 2 in Hermantown become. near the Adolph Trade Center. A left turn lane will be added on Highway 2.

“We’re rebuilding the first few hundred feet of Morris Thomas so that they intersect at a right angle – right now it’s at that skew angle,” said Hemmila.

There have been two T-bone or right angle accidents at the intersection since 2011 with vehicles attempting to cross there and one rear-end crash on Highway 2 that was supposed to be corrected by adding a turning lane.

Eliminating the distorted intersection should provide better visibility for drivers who stop on Morris Thomas, Hemmila said.

A partially built structure on the edge of the path at the mouth of the French river will frame the coast of the Upper Lake on Sunday, April 11, 2021. After completion, the edge of the path will contain a lookout point and historical interpretations.  (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

A partially built structure on the edge of the path at the mouth of the French river will frame the coast of the Upper Lake on Sunday, April 11, 2021. After completion, the edge of the path will contain a lookout point and historical interpretations. (Steve Kuchera / [email protected])

Another project: The county will build a 500-foot retaining wall along a switch along the shoreline of Lake Superior north of McQuade Small Craft Harbor on North Shore Drive or Scenic Highway 61.

“There was quite a bit of erosion and previous storm damage,” said Hemmila. “We want rebuild and protect this switch. “

St. Louis County is responsible for maintaining the several miles of North Shore Drive between the Duluth city limits and the Lake County Line.

Further north of McQuade Harbor, the county will complete a project that began last year when it replaced the bridge over the French River. The project is adjacent to the former fish hatchery. This year work will rebuild the rest of the route, with architectural work including a lookout point and the addition of historical interpretive displays.

Some other highlights of the district:

  • Renewal of 4.8 mile County Road 116 (Echo Trail) from County Road 88 to half a mile north of County Road 803 (Passi Road). It’s a government-funded project originally slated for construction in 2022 and accelerated with the help of transportation sales tax bonding funds. The project also includes an additional 14.3 miles of road renewal in the Ely area.

  • Renewing 7.2 miles of County Road 5 from 1.2 miles north of Trunk Highway 73 in Chisholm to County Road 81. It is another federal government funded project accelerated with additional committed funds.

  • Bridge replacement on County Road 65 in downtown Side Lake. The bridge spans the Side Lake outlet to the Sturgeon River and is the waterway that connects Side Lake to Little Sturgeon Lake for boaters. Boaters go under the bridge so it’s aesthetically enhanced in a way that most bridges aren’t, Hemmila said.

Traffic will be diverted when the bridge is replaced.

“It’s kind of an interesting bridge,” said Hemmila. “It’s the connection between Side Lake, Little Sturgeon Lake and a whole chain of lakes. It’s historic but covered in graffiti and in pretty bad shape. Since this is one of the rare bridges that people see from below, we’re working on the abutments a little more aesthetically. “

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