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Snags in highway project to slow WE Fest traffic

Westbound traffic near Airport Road by Detroit Lakes is brought over to the eastbound lane during road construction on Minnesota Highway 10. Photo by Forum News Service.

By Nathan Bowe / DL Online

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – The resurfacing project on Minnesota Highway 10 between Detroit Lakes and Lake Park is about three weeks behind schedule, and that will cause traffic delays during the big WE Fest country music festival Thursday through Saturday.

The project started May 13 as scheduled and was supposed to wrap up by this Saturday so that all four lanes would be open when WE Fest ended and people headed home Sunday.

Now the project isn’t expected to be done until Aug. 22, if the weather cooperates, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the general contractor, Shafer Contracting Co. Inc. of Shafer, Minn.

The company faces a $3,000-per-day fine for failing to meet Saturday’s deadline, said Trudy Kordosky, resident engineer at MnDOT’s District 4 headquarters in Detroit Lakes.

That means the contractor is looking at a fine of close to $60,000 or more.

Weather a factor

But it could be worse. At a recent Becker County Board meeting, Commissioner Barry Nelson said he was told by Becker County Highway Engineer Jim Olson that the same contractor was facing fines of $10,000 a day for missing a deadline on an Interstate 35 construction project south of Duluth.

He said Shafer Construction shifted resources to the I-35 project to avoid those steeper fines, choosing to let the Highway 10 project run late instead.

In an interview, Frank Weiss, president of Shafer Contracting Co., denied the allegations.

“No, no, no – not true,” he said. “We have one concrete paving crew. Because of the wet, cold spring and wet summer we’ve had – that’s the reason. ... All through the state, talking to other contractors, everybody is behind.”

Some of MnDOT’s estimates of construction material needed for the project have come up short, he said.

But mostly the delays are due to a late winter, cold spring and rainy summer, Weiss said.

On Thursday, he said the concrete paving work had been going well the past few days.

“If we can keep the rain away, that will be good.”

Subcontractors are ready to do shoulder work and drain tile work, he said.

MnDOT officials said they are disappointed that the Highway 10 project is running behind schedule, but contractors have the right to manage their projects as they see fit.

More involvement

The 8.6-mile project involves removing an asphalt overlay over the existing concrete base and replacing it with concrete pavement.

A “bond-breaker” asphalt layer is placed between the two concrete layers “so cracks in the base don’t reflect up to the new concrete,” Weiss said.

The same technique was used in repaving Highway 10 between Hawley and Boyer Lake near Lake Park seven years ago, Kordosky said. It is also used on interstate construction projects.

“It should be a nice, very smooth road for residents up there,” Weiss said. “If we just have normal weather from here on out, we’ll be OK. The proof will be in the pudding, I guess.”

Nelson said that in the future he’d like the county and other stakeholders to be involved in preconstruction meetings.

“I think that’s reasonable,” he said. “Let us be part of the planning process. The more eyes on a project, the better.”

MnDOT has contracted with the Minnesota State Patrol to provide extra enforcement on Highway 10 during WE Fest.

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