EAGLES NEST TWP – The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Hwy. 169 realignment project between Ely and Tower will soon be wrapping up work for the season. The final update meeting for this year was held last Friday at Eagles Nest Township Hall.
Project update meetings will resume, according to MnDOT District 1 Project Manager Mike Kalnbach, in May and June of next year, with the project scheduled to be completed by the middle of July 2018.
The project is nearly 65-percent complete in terms of the $16 million project cost, and 145,000 cubic yards (98 percent) of the rock has been blasted for the project, Kalnbach said. About 80 percent of the excavation for the six-mile project is complete. “A lot of the dollar value of the project includes the bituminous work (asphalt paving). Much of that still needs to be done,” he said.
Crews completed the pouring of a cement curb and gutter portion of the realignment near Clear Lake last week. “This was part of our plan,” Kalnbach said. “The option was to either put in the curb and gutter to keep the (drainage) water up on the road and channel it into a storm sewer or to construct a ditch in that narrow section that would reach into property owners’ yards.” That will be the only curb and gutter along the project route.
All paving, along with striping, for winter driving on the eastern segment of the realignment will be completed around the end of October, according to Hoffman Construction Manager Tom Dobberthein. The road entrance onto Bear Head Lake State Park Road will include center left-turn lanes for each direction of travel.
“Paving on the far west end of the project, at the transition area to the southern realignment portion, will also be completed,” Dobberthein said. “Our goal is, weather permitting, to start paving in about two weeks, and to be completed with paving and painting in two weeks after that. By Halloween, we hope to have all the permanent surface down.”
Kalnbach said he did some research on providing a traffic pull-out observation area at the peak of the hill along the new alignment portion of the road. “The best thing that we could come up with is initially a potential for a wider shoulder in an identified stretch,” he said. There are many rock formations in the “woods” portion of the new road and many residents inquired about a point-of-interest or pull-out section for traffic to stop and observe.
“We know people are likely to be stopping along there and looking at the rocks and the view over the landscape,” he said. “I have no promises, but it is something we can evaluate over the winter, and add to the grading plan. We don’t have any extra property along there. We have to ask if want to encourage people to stop along there, and if we want them walking on private property.”
Crews plan to work on the western off-road alignment section into November, depending on the weather. “If everything goes good we should be complete and shut down by mid-November,” Dobberthein said. The construction equipment will be taken to other projects, but the office and parts trailers will remain at the site across from Trygg Road, he said.
Dobberthein said the wet weather this summer set the project back by several weeks. “We’re thankful for the days of sunshine that we get,” he said.
As part of the rock mitigation plan for the project, as many as 10 private wells were sampled for presence of sulfide and other metals.
Most of the wells were sampled last fall, Kalnbach said, and the remaining wells were sampled in May. “One of the three wells sampled in May indicated higher levels of arsenic,” he said, “and that one had been drilled as recently as last fall. At the time of drilling, it indicated no traces of arsenic.”
In the last month, the Minnesota Department of Health returned for new samples of the nearby wells. The mitigation plan calls for sampling at least annually for the next five years, according to Kalnbach. “We are well aware of the situation and (the Dept. of Health) will continue to monitor it.”
More information about the project is available online at www.mndot. gov/d1/projects/Hwy169eagles.