Congratulations are in order to two groups in light of the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers’ selection of the County State Aid Highway 20 Ahren’s Hill project as one of the Seven Wonders of Engineering.
First, the engineers involved should be lauded for a job well done on a particularly challenging piece of terrain. Riverside Drive was a narrow road that hugged Ahren’s Hill and one that desperately needed reconstruction. Accepting the award on behalf of the team that worked on the project were Tim Houle of Widseth Smith Nolting (roadway design) Stephan Gale of Gale-Tec Engineering (reinforced soil slope design) and Duane Blanck, retired Crow Wing County highway engineer.
Eight years of construction were capped by the improvements to Riverside Drive on the stretch along Ahren’s Hill, overlooking Gilbert Lake. Improvements on that stretch of a little under a mile addressed safety issues, stormwater runoff and poor roadbed subgrade and foundation.
The second group that deserves commendation is the 2009 Crow Wing County Board which went against the wishes of a vocal contingent that wanted the county to merely resurface the road. The county board, realizing a Band-Aid approach would only mean that the road’s serious issues would have to be addressed later, wisely decided to avail itself of $2 million in federal stimulus funds to do the job right.
And the Ahren’s Hill residents who opposed the project can be thankful that they won’t have to pay for substantial improvements a few years from now without the benefit of the federal stimulus funds.