Lane changes, slowdowns and a few detours.
Spring means new construction projects and major shifts along Highway 371 in preparation for the opening of the Brainerd bypass in the fall. But much of the traffic disruption for road improvements will begin after the July 4th holiday.
Temporary signal poles for the shift in the Highway 371/210 intersection should be expected the last week of March or the first week in April. Lane shifts and altered traffic should be expected for the bulk of the summer season. There will be slowdowns in traffic flow.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is trying to tie a $2 million mill and overlay project on Highway 371, between Baxter and Nisswa, to the bypass project. The mill and overlay project involves grounding off and replacing the old surface. The idea is to complete the project the same year the bypass is completed and tie traffic up one year instead of working on the road successive summers. The resurfacing is along 13 miles, covering both lanes and will include shoulders and culverts. The project will begin after July 4th and will be completed about Sept. 1, depending on the weather and potential rain delays.
Work continues on the Highway 371 bypass. Grading is completed to the Mississippi River bridge, which is still under construction. MnDOT is also working on the road bed as it advances to its intersection with Glory Road and West College Drive.
The railroad tracks near MnDOT's Baxter headquarters is going to be the elevation of the new road, rising three feet. Then the new Highway 371 will continue along a straighter path, shifting about 150 feet from its present road bed. The shift will move it closer to Dondelinger's Motor City. That will be done under traffic.
At a recent regional transportation forum, attendees questioned the potential traffic snarls for the train crossing and the expected traffic for the new Home Depot site nearby. Jim Povich, assistant district engineer for the MnDOT's District 3, said to put an interchange at that site, elevated above the tracks, would cost more than the bypass.
"I think what you see is what we are going to live with," Povich said at the regional meeting.
When the interchange or overpass is built on Highway 371 South near Barrows there will be a ramp to leave the bypass and continue straight to Brainerd on Old Highway 371. There will be what is called a short slip ramp allowing drivers traveling on that path to exit at a slower speed, perhaps 20 mph. Signs signifying an exit to Brainerd will allow drivers time to adjust to the off ramp. This fall the roadway will have a relatively high speed ramp off to Old 371. In either case drivers continuing on to Brainerd will not have to stop or go into a signal.
"We know the city of Brainerd has this concern of being bypassed," Povich said in an interview. He noted MnDOT has also agreed to the continued responsibility for maintenance for Highway 371's current path. Such roads, he said, are typically returned to the county or city jurisdiction. Under a current proposal, Brainerd would instead take over Oak Street, or Highway 18, and the county is expected to take over Highway 25 North and Mill Avenue.
"We've reacted to the city of Brainerd's concerns there and we will still have a state highway that will serve them even when the bypass is in," Povich said. "I think that is a positive."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.