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Itasca-Heartland Trail tunnel goes out to bid

Bids are set to go out for tunnel construction under U.S. Hwy. 71. This is part of phase 1 of the Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail, a multi-purpose, paved trail between Itasca State Park and the Heartland Trail.

I-H fact sheet rev 1-20 pdf.cwk
The first phase of the project involves building a 1.75-mile trail from the Itasca State Park contact station to U.S. Hwy. 71, a tunnel under the highway with a retaining wall and a roughly 2-mile trail east of the tunnel toward Emmaville, where it would connect with an existing snowmobile trail. When funds are available, the second phase of trail construction will continue 13 miles east to Emmaville on county land, head south eight miles from Emmaville on a county road right-of-way to the intersection with the Heartland Trail, where a trail head would be constructed.
Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail Committee
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Bids are set to go out for tunnel construction under U.S. Hwy. 71.

This is part of phase 1 of the Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail, a multi-purpose, paved trail between Itasca State Park and the Heartland Trail.

Kent Skaar, senior project manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Trails Division, said plans for the tunnel are complete. He spoke on March 22 with the citizen-led committee that has championed the project.

“Bidding should be over the next 60 days, plus or minus, with construction currently scheduled for, very tightly, the month of September” and concluding in early October, Skaar said.

The highway’s closure is estimated to last about two weeks.

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The DNR anticipates the tunnel will cost $925,000. “I would expect that cost could go up 25 to 30%, but we’ll see,” Skaar said, based on other projects bid earlier this year. “We have already rejected projects due to excessive costs.”

The tunnel is 12-foot-by-12-foot with a multi-use pavement flooring. It will allow groomers to bring snow into the tunnel.

Skaar said the DNR’s current intent is to complete the required natural and cultural resource studies of the proposed 1.75-mile trail from the Itasca State Park contact station to the tunnel under U.S. Hwy. 71 this year. When the design is finalized, Skaar said there is an opportunity to construct this trail segment in 2023.

The DNR applied for a Federal Recreational Trail Grant for this segment. If awarded, it is a $150,000 grant, at maximum. “This would be supplementary funding to the project,” Skaar said. If successful, the grant would be available on Oct. 1.

The 2020 Minnesota Legislature included $2 million in its bonding bill for this phase of the trail spur.

Additional bonding

Clark Arneson, the committee’s state legislature coordinator, reported that an additional $2 million bonding request is “making progress.”

The appropriation would be used to complete phase 1, acquire land for phase 2 and for the environmental review, predesign, design and construction of a paved multiple-use trail to connect Itasca State Park to the Heartland trail beginning from the park’s contact station to the park’s southeast boundary and through the tunnel to be constructed under U.S. Hwy. 71, and continuing from there about two miles and, with any remaining funds, provide a trailhead at or near the proposed trail’s southern junction with the Heartland Trail.

Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail 2022 by inforumdocs on Scribd

A bill (SF4169) was introduced by State Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids) on March 21 in the Senate.

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District 5A State Rep. Matt Bliss (R-Pennington) agreed to author the companion bill (HF4617) in the House.

RELATED COVERAGE:
Kent Skaar, senior project manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Trails Division, recently told the citizens-led committee that the DNR intends to get bids for the trail tunnel, but due to shipping delays, construction may be pushed to spring 2023.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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