Statewide Category Archive: Roads
An absent minded driver lost a passenger after veering into a ditch and regaining control of her car while traveling north of Blackduck.
Fifteen-year-old Kendall Ericksen of Baudette was sleeping in the back seat of a 2006 Chevrolet Impala as it was traveling southbound on Highway 72 Sunday, according to a report in The Bemidji Pioneer.
At about 10:30 a.m., the car's driver, 72-year-old Louise Ericksen of Baudette, lost control of the car.
From the Pioneer: "The Impala traveled along the ditch slope and struck a no passing sign on the left rear door area, which broke out a window. Kendall Ericksen was sleeping in the rear passenger area and was ejected through the window and landed in the ditch."
According to a report from the Minnesota State Patrol the driver managed to get back on the road, but continued driving until she and another passenger noticed Ericksen was missing.
The driver turned the car around and found Ericksen standing along the highway. She was treated for minor injuries.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has narrowed down its options to relocate a mile-long section of Highway 53 between Virginia and Eveleth, including a route costing upwards of $60 million that would steer motorists over a new bridge spanning high across an abandoned mining pit.
MnDOT has released a large scoping document laying out four alternative options for the new highway route. The public has until April 4 to comment on the document. A public meeting will be held March 27 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Mountain Iron Community Center.
For over fifty years, the state has operated a short stretch of highway just south of Virginia on an easement granted by US Steel (now RGGS Land and Minerals Co.). But nearly two years ago, United Taconite, which is owned by the giant mining company Cliffs Natural Resources, told the state it intended to mine iron ore located underneath the highway that it owns the rights to, near the Mineview in the Sky overlook.
Minnesota does have the option to purchase the rights to the iron ore underneath the highway. But with an estimated price tag of $400 to $600 million dollars, that's a longshot. More likely is one of two proposed realignments: one that would traverse part of the Auburn Pit, an area that's been mined out of iron ore; or another that would travel around an old water-filled mine called the Rouchleau Pit. That option is estimated to cost up to $85 million.
Several Iron Range lawmakers like DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia have long favored the route over the Auburn Pit. Last year Rukavina said if that route's approved "people are going to be driving right through our own Grand Canyon of the north."
It will stil be several years before drivers enjoy a new view, wherever it is. MnDOT isn't required to have the new highway finished until the spring of 2017.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
By Jon Collins
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is gathering comments from bicyclists across Minnesota to help create the state's first official electronic bicycling map.
State transportation officials plan to use comments gathered in the study to help bicyclists find their way around and guide the department's approach to building roads and other transit projects.
"When you're developing a project, if you don't have a complete picture of where the bicycle network is, or where the gaps are, it's difficult to prioritize where we can provide extra accommodation to fill in some of those gaps," MnDOT transportation planner Greta Alquist said.
The department's last map, distributed in 2001, was printed on paper. Its decision to seek more input from bicyclists makes sense, given efforts by other state agencies to promote biking for its health benefits, said Dorian Grilley executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.
As biking has gained more popularity across the state, Grilley said, most of the "low-hanging fruit" of abandoned rail lines and roads have already been converted into bike trails. He said bicyclists should add their comments to the study to continue improving bike transit in the state by also making standard roads and highways more safe and accessible for bicyclists.
"Much of the transportation infrastructure, with very little investment, could be significantly improved to make it more bike friendly without causing disruption to traffic or motor vehicle traffic," Grilley said.
Three rounds of meetings will take place across the state, with the first round of meetings starting this week. For people unable to attend the meetings, MnDOT has also set up a statewide online discussion on March 22.
North Dakota State University extension is offering a mobile app for drivers who get stranded in a winter storm.
The Winter Survival Kit app is designed to determine your exact location, notify law enforcement, calculate how long your car will run on the gas in your tank, and alert you when it's time to clear the tailpipe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
The app was created by Myriad Devices, a company based in the NDSU Research and Technology Park incubator in Fargo with funding from the USDA.
The Winter Survival Kit app also has tips on what to pack for winter survival gear and advice on winter driving skills. But does the app tell you when to stay off the road?
NDSU says the app is available free for Android and Apple devices.
The Bemidji street called Stoner Avenue will keep its name -- for now. The City Council has put on hold plans to change the name of the street.
The city has been plagued by repeated thefts of Stoner Avenue street signs. Some 15 signs disappear each year. City officials say they've probably spent close to $20,000 replacing the signs over the past decade.
But at a public hearing this week on the name change, Stoner Avenue residents convinced council members to table the issue. Residents complained that changing the name would be a hassle for the more than 40 property owners who live along the street, because they'd have to update their drivers license, as well as banking and other documents.
The city agreed to explore options to make the signs less vulnerable to theft, including using different types of screws or using taller sign posts. Some residents even suggested using video cameras to deter would-be sign thieves.
Stoner Avenue is named for Marcus Stoner, a man who surveyed much of the Bemidji area beginning in the late 1800s. Stoner was Bemidji's first city engineer and Beltrami County surveyor.
Right now, about 10 Stoner Avenue signs are missing and need to be replaced.
After years of seeing street signs along Stoner Avenue disappear, Bemidji has decided it's had enough.
Tired of the thefts, city officials have decided to change the street's name.
Public works officials in Bemidji say about 15 "Stoner Avenue" signs disappear each year from the street located south of Lake Bemidji. It costs about $100 to replace each sign. Officials say the city has probably spent close to $20,000 over the past decade.
Beltrami County had similar problems with its Stoner Memorial Drive, according to a report in The Bemidji Pioneer. A few years ago, the county changed the name of that roadway to North Blackduck Lake Road Northeast.
A name change means people living on Stoner Avenue will have to update their drivers license, banking and other documents, but city officials say the cost of a name change to the city will be minimal.
The process of changing the street name includes a series of ordinance readings and a public hearing. No decision has been made on what the new street name will be.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation says snow plowing and removal costs for the past winter have set a new record.
Through March 15, the DOT has spent $71.8 million to keep state roads open and drivable, DOT state maintenance engineer Steve Lund said.That tops the 2008-09 mark of $67.4 million.
Lund said the total could be close to $80 million before the last flake falls. He said the DOT has had to do more work on snow since mid-March, and another storm is forecast for Sunday and Monday in central and northern Minnesota.
"It's been a memorable winter," he said.
Each of the DOT's eight districts are planning their summer maintenance programs now. However, the above-average snow plowing costs could reduce what they can do this summer.
Lund said all major road construction projects will go ahead as planned. But each district has small pavement touch-up jobs they like to do in the summer. Some of that maintenance likely will be scaled back because of the heavy snows.
The DOT will also review its winter time work once warmer weather arrives.
Lund said officials like to look back to see what worked and what didn't work. That helps them get ready for the next round of cold weather.
This is a view of the United Taconite taconite mine at Eveleth. Much of the landscape surrounding Eveleth has been altered by decades of mining. Under a new plan, that landscape will be altered yet again.
Imagine: a beautiful, high, four-lane bridge spanning an Iron Range taconite mine on the way to the city of Virginia. That's one option for moving Highway 53, which has to go to make room for taconite mining. And it's the option area State Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, wants to see.
State transportation officials are holding meetings to offer Virginia area residents various options to move this busy route. Cliff's Natural Resources United Taconite Company of Eveleth, and RGGS Land and Minerals, hold mineral rights to the iron under the highway, and they've sent notice they intend to mine it.
The current highway is a divided four-lane affair that takes traffic from Duluth up to Virginia and eventually, as a two-lane road, all the way to International Falls.
But business tends to drift to the nearest busy highway, and that's certainly the case in Virginia, where Highway 53 now rolls within a busy business corridor including a major local grocery store, hotels, restaurants and the city's shopping mall.
It's one thing to move the highway -- and no little thing that -- but quite another to return traffic to the retail area, or somehow move businesses to the traffic.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has offered more than half a dozen alternative routes for Highway 53. One would take it west, completely around the other side of Eveleth before rejoining its current route somewhere in Virginia. Another goes east, around Virginia on its other side.
There's also an option to leave it in place and purchase the mineral rights. But transportation officials say that iron ore is worth so much it's cheaper to move the four-lane highway, despite the $60-million estimated cost.
Then there are the direct routes.Two options would just move the road a little chink to the left for a couple of miles -- rejoining the current route before most of the businesses. Both routes would go right through United Taconite's "Thunderbird" mining operation. Logically, the road would rise on a bridge over the mine -- a spectacular view of the mine's Auburn pit, one of Minnesota's man-made taconite canyons.
Rukavina isn't interested in a ponderous decision. He and three area legislators have introduced a bill to speed up the process and limit the options to those last two, the routes through today's mining area.
As he told the Duluth News Tribune "people are going to be driving right through our own Grand Canyon of the north." The bill requires a decision by mid-March 2015 to allow construction to begin by that June.
The bill was filed March 7th and so far has gone to the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee. State Sen. Dave Tomassoni,(DFL-Chisolm, has filed a companion bill in the Senate.
And you know what? It sounds like a practical solution to a thorny problem. Bring on the bridge. It's a nice drive now, although lacking much to look at beyond endless trees. A little bit of Grand Canyon would be a terrific addition.