CROSBY-It's the detour of all detours, or that may be how it feels for drivers coasting Highway 210-the main thoroughfare connecting the Brainerd area to cities of the Cuyuna Range-which is slated for some extensive reconstruction this summer.
All in all, 14 miles of roadway looks to be reconstructed from the ground up, with a number of new features and amenities added to repair some subterranean infrastructure, as well as improve traffic efficiency and safety for about 12,000 vehicles a day. It's slated to cost roughly $6.8 million to $6.9 million when it's all said and done.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation hosted an informational open house from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, in the forum room of Crosby-Ironton High School at 711 Poplar St., Crosby.
"Essentially, it's a quick-turnaround project," said Luke Wehseler, a MnDOT project manager tasked with the development phase. "We had a short time frame to turn around (or, budgeted allocations with a short expiration period) and we saw this was a good candidate to get a longer-term fix."
Wehseler said the project is planned to begin in June -- with the detour in effect Monday, July 8 -- and end sometime in mid-October. Some portions of the project will be phased to maintain access to the Crow Wing County Landfill.
While Highway 210 will be closed to through traffic for about four months, the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, Crow Wing County Landfill and all businesses will remain accessible throughout the project.
In the meantime, drivers are advised to seek alternative routes or use the signed detour along Highway 25 in Brainerd, east on Highway 18 to north on Highway 6 in Deerwood and Highway 6/210 to Crosby-Ironton. Only authorized drivers with business on the road-for example, dropping off junk at the landfill or visiting the airport-should be on Highway 210 during the duration of the project.
My way or the highway
Wehseler gave a rundown of the project as it pertains to the reconstructed portions of Highway 210 between Pine Shores Road in Brainerd to Seventh Avenue in Ironton:
• Full-depth reclamation of the pavement from the end of the four-lane in Brainerd to Ironton, which also includes shoulders and turn lanes.
• Reconstruction of the Highway 210 and County Highway 12 (otherwise known as the Deerwood shortcut) intersection.
• Repairing or replacing underground drainage structures, including pipes west of County Road 147, west of County Highway 59 and west of County Highway 12.
• Adding left-turn lanes at County Highway 25, County Road 147 and County Highway 59.
• Adding bypass lanes at the Mississippi Northwoods entrance and Sploezens Road.
• Adding a continuous center-left turn lane from west of Jordan Road to the Airport Road/County Road 142.
• Install mumble and rumble strips the 14 mile length of reconstruction. These strips, jagged portions in the center medium of a two-way highway or on the shoulders, serve to alert drivers if they're nodding off, not paying attention or drifting into unsafe areas of the roadway.
In addition to that, Wehseler noted there are no plans at this time to reconstruct adjoining stretches near the roadway that passes by the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport-which, resulting from a lack of trees and blocking foliage, is prone to heavy snow swept onto the highway and forming ice. Wehseler said MnDOT is limited in their scope for the project and is primarily focused on the roadway itself.
As for the intersection of County Highway 59-Highway 210-an angular stretch of roadway commonly referred to as the "Riverton curve" or the "Riverton T"-Wehseler said MnDOT hopes to mitigate traffic congestion and safety risks with the addition of left-hand turn lanes and elevation grading to even out the curve a little in the project.
"That's been a big concern for years," Wehseler said. "We did what we could in the short time frame that we have."
In the case of emergency vehicle traffic -of which, Deerwood and Riverton have an emergency services agreement-Wehseler said MnDOT construction will be done in such a way as to ensure safe and expedient passage through the reconstruction zone in the event of an emergency involving ambulances, law enforcement or fire department response.
Lastly, Wehseler said MnDOT officials met with Cuyuna Range Chamber of Commerce representatives to discuss potential effects on local businesses. Aside from minimal inconveniences for places like the new bar-grill Long Branch in Ironton, Wehseler said local business leaders are on board with the project and don't expect adverse results.
"In the end," Wehseler said, "we'll have a nice road completed."
Dick Jeub, coming down from his residence north of Crosby, said he came to the open house to express concerns about confusing and dangerous lane configurations at the Highway 210-County Highway 25 intersection next to the Crow Wing County Landfill-concerns, he noted, project engineers smoothed over.
"Now they've put in a left-hand turn lane, a through lane and a bypass lane," Jeub observed with satisfaction. "They've got three lanes there. They've separated them. They've addressed them."
In substitute of Highway 210, MnDOT has mapped out an alternative route with a number of temporary features added to conduct traffic more efficiently:
• The signed detour includes a route along Highway 25 in Brainerd, east on Highway 18 to north on Highway 6 in Deerwood and Highway 6/210 to Crosby-Ironton.
• The roadway will include a mini, or compact roundabout at the east intersection of Highway 6 and Highway 210, just north of the railroad tracks in Deerwood. The roundabout will be a flatter model with 2.5 inches of raised pavement, shallow enough for trucks and trailer rigs to drive over. However, traffic will be stopped on the roundabout if a train passes through.
• Drivers are advised to watch for trains and stay off railroad tracks in Deerwood. Drivers are also advised to account for a complete stop and some wait time in the event a train passes through Deerwood during travel.
• On the other end of the detour, there will be a temporary traffic signal at the "T" intersection of County Highway 25-Mill Avenue and the westbound Highway 210 access connection to County Highway 25 in east Brainerd.
• There will be an added bypass lane at the intersection of Highway 18-Highway 6 intersection near Bay Lake.
"I make this journey between Crosby and Brainerd many a times," said Gay Gordon, a resident of Emily who spent much of the open house peering at maps to find alternative routes. "Doctors' offices are in Brainerd and Crosby, back and forth-well, I haven't really figured it out yet."
"That's a long way around," he added. "I don't like it. That's a lot of extra miles that way."
Said Jeub, after giving a philosophical shrug of resignation, "It has to happen. If they're going to improve the road, they've got to do it."