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Highway 71 project could finish early

The contractor for the Highway 71 resurfacing project between Menahga and Park Rapids announced Wednesday night that his company would finish the project a month ahead of schedule.

Al Minnerath, superintendent for Central Specialties, Inc., said the company plans to complete the project in six weeks, with minimal disruption to traffic on the heavily traveled north-south artery.

Work on the 12.5-mile stretch will begin July 13. Minnerath said work would be completed by Aug. 20.

But the tradeoff is that a virtual army of heavy equipment, trucks and workers will descend on the highway, making it a dangerous place to be.

Some of the work will be completed under traffic, so project supervisor Larry Randall said it is crucial that motorists obey reduced speed limits and watch for workers on the roadway.

Transportation officials were still discussing how the project would proceed, because Minnerath suggested altering the two phases of construction. He'd like to mount a two-pronged start, working in Park Rapids and on the stretch between Menahga and Highway 87 first.

He said crews could complete the job faster if they can get the long stretch of highway finished at the outset.

Two detours are planned, generally routing traffic to County Roads 6 and 15.

Crews will be working long days, six days a week.

The job entails milling off layers of asphalt, recycling 30 percent of the bituminous and placing fresh layers on the roadway. Right turn lanes will also be put on roadway intersections.

And Minnerath told concerned residents their access to the highway would not be cut off.

"It'll be open for local traffic," he said.

Separately, the Department of Transportation is conducting traffic counts at two intersections of Highway 71 to determine if traffic signals are warranted.

The busy intersection near the new J&B Foods store is being studied, along with the intersection of County 15 and Highway 71.