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Plans are taking shape for $4 million Akeley Hwy. 34 project

To lessen the overall impacts on motorists and businesses, the project will be constructed in three stages.

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This graphic is an example of what the State Hwy. 34 reconstruction project will look like between Graceson Ave. and Marie Ave./State Hwy 64. While the project has an October completion date, tree planting will be done the following spring.
Contributed / MnDOT
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This is a big year in Akeley with the State Hwy. 34 project scheduled to begin in mid-July and end in mid-October, as long as there aren’t any significant impacts to construction like extended periods of severe weather.

TJ Melcher is the communications and engagement spokesperson for Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) in Bemidji. He shared this update on what improvements the project is expected to bring and some timelines on what to expect as the project moves forward.

“The project doesn’t let (bids) until March 24,” he said. “So we won’t have a winning bid, and final project cost until about late April. Our estimated project cost for planning is $4 million.”

Three stages

Melcher said that to lessen the overall impacts on motorists and businesses, the project will be constructed in three stages.

“These are the anticipated timelines for the detours, although there are a lot of variables that can cause these to move around,” he said. “So it’s common that they end up being a little different once they get into working on those sections. There will also be some additional finishing work that will be done under traffic, like road striping.”

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  • Stage 1: Pleasant Ave. to Franklin Ave. closed for about 4-5 weeks for pavement replacement from Franklin Ave. to east of Scherer Ave.
  • Stage 2: Graceson Ave. to Pleasant Ave. closed for about 5-6 weeks.
  • Stage 3: Hillside Ave. to Graceson Ave. closed for about 5-6 weeks.

Once the project is underway, updates will be available at www.mndot.gov/d2/projects/hwy34-akeley.

Safety improvements

Melcher said the pavement width on Hwy. 34 will be reduced by approximately 30 feet.

“What we find with wide roads is that drivers typically drive faster than the posted speeds,” he said. “It also requires more time, effort and funding for things like construction, plowing and maintenance. Reducing the width of the road will not only help get motorists to drive slower through town, but it will also reduce costs, increase maintenance efficiencies and increase safety.

“Reducing the width also allows for the inclusion of boulevard spacing, which will move the sidewalks away from the driving surface and increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

In the two blocks between Hulet Ave. and Marie Ave./State Hwy. 64, the boulevards will include colored, decorative concrete. The rest will be grass.

Turning improvements will be made at the intersection with Hwy. 64.

“Reducing the road width allows for an adjustment to the curb corners and turning radius for vehicles, which will improve safety,” Melcher said. “It doesn’t really change anything with the configuration, so motorists will use it the same. It just makes some adjustments to where the corners are.”

Other features

The project will also include resurfacing and sidewalk replacement between Hillside Ave. and Franklin Ave., resurfacing and sidewalk replacement.

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“Along with replacing the sidewalks, we will install new sidewalks east of Marie Ave. to about Franklin Avenue,” he said.

The project also will include new highway lighting. Parking will be changed from diagonal to parallel parking.

Trees will be planted in the boulevard along the corridor in 2024.

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Related Topics: AKELEYHIGHWAY 34 PROJECT
Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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