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Construction project prompts driving complaints: Officials urge motorists to use designated detour routes

Construction began Monday, April 30, on the Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street reconstruction project in Brainerd, and so did the driving complaints.

Construction continues Wednesday on South Sixth Street in Brainerd with several pieces of heavy equipment employed to break up pavement and excavate for utilities. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Construction continues Wednesday on South Sixth Street in Brainerd with several pieces of heavy equipment employed to break up pavement and excavate for utilities. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Construction began Monday, April 30, on the Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street reconstruction project in Brainerd, and so did the driving complaints.

Numerous calls came into Brainerd City Hall and the Brainerd Police Department about motorists speeding through residential streets around the construction project zone. The $5.7 million reconstruction project involves Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street from its intersection with Washington Street by the historic water tower southward to the intersection of Joseph Street.

"We are really asking for the motoring public's help to follow the designated detours," Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston stated in an email. "There is way too much through traffic using South Seventh Street, particularly from the 1700 block to the 1300 block. We are going to work with the city engineer and for additional barricades and signage to try to get more compliance with the detour.

"If we can't get better compliance with the detour with the additional signage and barricades, we'll have to look at increased enforcement options. Hopefully with the project fully underway now, more people will begin to use the detours correctly."

Brainerd City Engineer Paul Sandy said the city and the Minnesota Department of Transportation Tuesday placed more LED signage boards along the detour routes to deter traffic from entering the nearby residential streets. Signs also were placed on both ends of South Seventh, Ronald and Paul streets stating they were closed to through traffic.

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"It seemed to help a lot," Sandy said, noting traffic was lighter Wednesday morning. "We're asking people to do their best to follow the detour and to do the right thing and not travel through residential streets to skirt around the construction."

"We are monitoring traffic in the area and are asking motorists to please use the signed detour routes," Jenny Seelen, MnDOT communication specialist, stated in an email. "We've seen many non-local vehicles/through traffic, driving around road closure signs into busy work areas to short cut through, especially on the south end of the project. Brainerd law enforcement will monitor these areas and non-local traffic will be ticketed. We also want to emphasis access to local businesses and residents will be maintained and open, which may entail gravel surfaces or side-street accesses."

From now until mid-July, Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street will be closed from Joseph Street to Oak Street. A signed detour uses Industrial Park Road, Crow Wing County Highway 45/13th Street Southeast and Oak Street. Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street will remain open to cross street traffic at Willow Street or Vine Street.

A signed truck detour will direct Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street commercial vehicles along Industrial Park Road/Crow Wing County Road 117/Thiesse Road, Highway 25 and Highway 210. The turning radiuses are narrow on the local street detour, MnDOT stated. MnDOT asks truck drivers to use the truck route whenever possible.

MnDOT construction project manager Joe Cameron said Wednesday-Day 3 of the construction project-everything has been going well and is coming along as expected. There are four operational crews currently on the project including contractors, haulers, excavators and the electric company.

"Patience may be wearing on both sides," Cameron said referring to crew members trying to work safely on the project and motorists trying to find shortcuts to their destination. "This is the normal start of any project. Everyone is trying to find their way. ... We have had some close calls with traffic (of workers who almost got hit by a vehicle). We ask people to follow the detour and if they have any questions on the project to call me."

Cameron can be reached at his office at 218-828-5740.

Construction is expected to continue through mid-October. MnDOT stated motorists should expect periodic lane, access or sidewalk closures along the entire project area. Access to businesses and homes will be maintained and open at all times.

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When completed, the project will reconstruct and redesign the roadway, upgrade city underground utilities and infrastructure, improve pedestrian accessibility, upgrade signal systems and replace road signs throughout the corridor.

The roadway itself is expected to be expanded, with as many as five lanes in certain portions.

Related Topics: BRAINERD
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