BY Reed Anfinson
While it might seem there is a daunting amount of work yet to do on the joint U.S. Highway 59-Minnesota Highway 55 between Barrett and Elbow Lake, the $9 million project is on schedule.
“There is lots of work left to do, but the project is still scheduled to be completed by the end of October,” Emma E. Olson, public affairs coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 4 told the Herald Friday.
“Right now, crews are replacing culverts at various locations between County Road 54 and County Road 21, which includes both centerline and approach pipes,” she said.
“Driveway access is being maintained, but the road could be temporarily impassable at the culvert locations for residents and other local traffic. The road is closed to through-traffic,” Olson said.
Currently, those traveling between Elbow Lake and Barrett are taking either Grant County Roads 8 and 54, or Grant County 21 and Minnesota Highway 79, to get around the closed highway.
Construction on the project started in July and is expected to be completed in late October. It involves Minnesota Department of Transportation partnering with Grant County to complete the project.
In the spring of 2020, MnDOT conducted an online survey to gather public feedback for its planned project on the eight-mile section of highway. The survey was conducted in lieu of an in-person open house due to COVID-19.
Do you have any safety concerns with the highway? MnDOT asked. Of the 225 people who responded to the survey, 140 people (62%) responded yes and 85 no.
A majority of respondents were also concerned about MnDOT’s plan to not start work on the section of highway until 2023. Based on the poor pavement condition of the road and safety concerns, MnDOT moved the project up a year.
The safety-focused actions will address the poor pavement conditions, narrow shoulders, drainage concerns, drifting snow, truck traffic and need for turn lanes.
The project includes:
– A “robust” resurfacing of the roadway
– Shoulder-widening, with 8 additional feet (4-foot paved, 4-foot gravel) on each side of the highway
– Aligning Grant County Road 54 with Highway 59 on south edge of Elbow Lake.
– Culvert replacements
– Potential installation of snow drift grading
– Access improvements
– Pedestrian ramp installation in the City of Barrett
– The project also is addressing drainage and flooding issues, visibility concerns due to hills, and steep ditches.
There will be a right turn-off lane installed on the north side of Highway 59 for people turning right onto Grant County Road 21.
A right turn-off lane will also be installed on the southside of Highway 59 for those turning onto Grant County Road 8 just outside of Barrett.
The survey also looked at drainage issues along the stretch of highway between Barrett and Elbow Lake, which has numerous sloughs and wet areas on either side. Responses to these questions were limited to the people living along the highway. Only about 9 to 10 percent of those surveyed had problems with drainage or the location of their driveway on the highway.
When the project enters its second phase scheduled for mid-September, the detour route will be extended temporarily to include County Road 25 and County Road 1/Division Street, while construction is completed at the County Road 54 intersection. Then, construction crews will start work under traffic (lane closures, flaggers) between County Road 21 and Park Street in Barrett.
Do you live or work on joint Highway 55/59? MnDOT says driveway access will be maintained, but sections of the roadway may be temporarily impassable during culvert replacements.