Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Ailene Croup
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

MnDOT to work with limited funds


At the Pine County board’s regular meeting last Tuesday, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) representative Walter Leu outlined construction and state highway improvements for District 1 over the next four years, 2015 to 2018.

Federal transportation dollars have been cut by more than half, Leu said, and Congress is telling states to allocate additional money for state roads rather than depending on federal funds.

“The maintenance budget is the worst I’ve seen in 15 years,” he said. The district budgets for $3 million worth of salt in a normal year. The salt sheds are empty and will have to be filled for the next season. MnDOT will be operating with a negative balance by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, he added.

With 1,561 miles of roads, District 1 is the largest geographical MnDOT district in Minnesota and encompasses eight counties: Pine, Carlton, Aitkin, St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Itasca and Koochiching.

Recommendations for the list of transportation projects for the district’s four-year plan came from the Northeast Minnesota Area Transportation Partnership (ATP). The committee consists of elected officials, engineers and planners from the eight counties.

The largest Pine County project in the four-year plan will be the Highway 70 recondition, in 2015.

Leu said the project will cost just under $10 million. There will be 12-foot wide driving lanes and six-foot wide paved shoulders. The 16-mile stretch will cost approximately $50,000 per mile.

Commissioner Steve Chaffee of Hinckley asked about the poor condition of Highway 48 at the Interstate 35 bridge in Hinckley and whether there were plans to repair the potholes.

Leu said approaches to the I-35 bridge in Hinckley will not be scheduled for repair until after 2018.

Work scheduled for 2014 in Pine and Carlton counties includes: Intelligent Transport System (ITS) rural traffic/weather CMS system. According to the CMS website, ITS claims to reduce traffic congestion, coordinate emergency response, speed toll payments, surveillance and incident detection using closed circuit TV, enforce red light jumping and speed checks, regulate commercial traffic with a state of the art traffic control system and ensure lane discipline through hot applied thermal road marking.

Also listed on the 2014 District 1 highway construction plan are:

– Three northbound and southbound changeable message signs from Cloquet to Rock Creek.

– Cable median barriers at 12 locations from Trunk Highway (TH) 70 in the south to Carlton County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 4.

– District wide culvert repair and replacement.

– Sign replacement on THs 2, 18 and 210. District 1 has 35,722 signs.


– Replace bridge 5549 and approaches located 0.1 miles north of Duquette.


– Redo railroad bridges south of Hinckley on I-35. One bridge in 2016, the other the following year.


– Mill and overlay on the northbound lane of I-35 from north of Pine County CSAH 33 to the south of the Carlton County line.

– Approach repairs to the Kettle River bridge 4.5 miles east of I-35 on Highway 48.

– Mill and overlay, resurfacing and ADA work on THs 27, 79 and 289 in the Moose Lake area.


– District-wide bridge work on 13 bridges.

Sun shades for courthouse

Commissioner Matt Ludwig of Sandstone said the facilities committee, consisting of he and Mitch Pangerl of Pine City, found the cost of a sun shade on the east facing windows of the courthouse would be $20,000. They found an alternative which is a fabric shade which could be decorated with large old pictures of Pine County. The cost would be $5,000, he said, for the 45-foot long shade which would cover all but the lower eight feet to allow sunlight. They will be working with Pine County Historical Society to find appropriate pictures.

Ludwig also reminded the board they will have to address the problem of the aging boiler in the old county courthouse which is now 100 percent filled by tenants. The county board needs to “fine tune” leases, he said, to reflect the cost of a new boiler.

Flood buyout

The board approved a clarification of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) grant for the buyout of homes affected by 2012 floods. They approved the FEMA grant for $2,053,242 of the $5-plus million buyout and an amendment to include the other half of the funds.


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