Highway 34 detours coming May 14

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and contractors laid out a detailed schedule for the first month of Highway 34 construction at a meeting Monday morning.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and contractors laid out a detailed schedule for the first month of Highway 34 construction at a meeting Monday morning.

Sellin Brothers of Hawley has already begun preparations for underground utility work at Western Avenue.

Monday, May 14, the traffic lights at the intersection of Highway 34 and 71 will be removed and detours will be posted (see map).

To accommodate traffic when the intersection is closed, center street parking in the first block of Main Avenue will be removed and truck traffic will be re-routed.

The south detour for trucks to avoid Highway 34 through the city will include Fair Avenue, Industrial Park Road, the CSAH 15 river crossing and CSAH 6. The north detour will guide trucks along CSAH 28 between Highway 34 and Highway 71.


The schedule calls for the state highway intersection to be closed for two weeks, reopening May 25.

Once the stoplights have been re-installed, the south half of Highway 34 will be closed with traffic constricted to the north half.

Work will proceed from "a couple of hundred feet" west of the Fish Hook River bridge to Western Avenue.

A detour also will be necessary at the west end of the project. Once school is out (June 1 is the last day of classes), traffic will be re-routed north on Western Avenue to Monico Lane and back south on Helten Avenue.

Contractor Allan Minnerath of Central Specialties, Alexandria, said in mid-July, the south half of Highway 34 should be completed and the north half will be closed.

When stoplights, including those on Main Avenue are out of commission, there will be four-way stops at the intersections, explained Larry Randall, project supervisor from the MnDOT office in Bemidji.

"There will be a lot of issues with traffic," said Minnerath. "With traffic restricted to two single lanes, if someone tries to make a left-hand turn, it could stop traffic for a long time.

"Traffic is going to be a nightmare," Minnerath said.


He suggested posting temporary "no left-hand turn" signs once the intersection is done.

Randall said he expects traffic along Highway 71 will flow pretty well once the intersection is done, but advised everyone will need to exercise patience.

"In any urban job, you run into stuff," he said of projected timelines.

For example, last week, the city council reviewed MnDOT and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requirements if petroleum contaminated soil is encountered during construction. With the depth required for installing city utility lines under portions of the new roadbed, the likelihood of encountering contaminated soil is even greater, city administrator Brian Weuve explained.

MnDOT officials and Minnerath answered a number of questions from business owners and others attending the meeting.

The contactors have to maintain access to all businesses and residences, Randall said.

Joel Sellin of Sellin Brothers asked that businesses and residents contact them if their water is shut down and not turned on soon. He said they will lay new water mains along the existing lines, but when the switchover is made, workers may not know where every connection is.

"Warning" signs for detours on Highway 34 will be posted at Detroit Lakes, Itasca State Park, Kabekona Corners, south of Bemidji, east of Walker and at Menahga this week, according to Randall.


Other work included in the project this summer will be relocating utility lines in the highway right-of-way east from the bridge. "There are seven utilities, including a major Qwest line, and a lot of things have to be relocated," Randall said. Most of the utility lines are on the south side of Highway 34, he said.

Two road realignments will be completed. One is the intersection of Helten and Fair avenues at Highway 34.

The other work will be at CSAH 4 and the township road (169th Avenue) running south. That realignment and paving will be done this summer, according to Minnerath.

Asked about a rumor that the construction might be completed west to CSAH 4 this season, Randall said the contractor had asked, but MnDOT determined the project is too complex and "there would be too much risk" (in terms of safety).

Weekly contractor meetings will be held at 1 p.m. Thursdays, beginning May 10 at the Frank White Education Center, 301 Huntsinger Ave. Meetings in the following weeks will be held at the Park Rapids Area Library.

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