Construction season looms in TRF area

by April Scheinoha

    Area motorists may encounter some challenges this summer. At its meeting Tuesday, March 14, the Pennington County Board heard about some construction projects.
    Darren Laesch, planning director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 2, provided information about MnDOT’s upcoming projects. He noted that additional funding may move up a particular project and decreased funding may postpone a particular project.
    This year, MnDOT plans to chip-seal Highway 32 from Fertile to St. Hilaire. Laesch said this project will involve “minor impact.”
    Another project may impact residents’ daily commute to work. Next year, MnDOT plans to reconstruct Highway 1, from Main Avenue to the bridge, in Thief River Falls.
    “It’s going to create some hardships for a little while,” said Shawn Groven, resident engineer with MnDOT’s Thief River Falls office. He noted that there wouldn’t be enough room to complete construction under one lane of traffic.
    In 2020, MnDOT plans to improve the intersection of Highways 1 and 59 on the west side of Thief River Falls. Laesch said MnDOT is considering a roundabout or other intersection improvements.
    The county, city and watershed district plan to work together on a drainage project in that area as well. County Engineer Mike Flaagan said the three entities may fund a study completed by HDR Engineering. Flaagan said County Ditch 70 has nearly flooded into Petro Pumper and Hardware Hank at that location.
    MnDOT’s project would include the Highways 1 and 59 intersection as well as Third Street to Kinney Avenue. As part of that project, the city of Thief River Falls wants MnDOT to construct left-turn lanes on Third Street in that area. The turn lanes would ease congestion as motorists turn left onto Brooks and Barzen avenues.
    Three years later, MnDOT plans to resurface Highway 59 from Brooks to Thief River Falls. Laesch said a one-and-a-half-mile passing lane may be constructed as part of that project.
    MnDOT also plans to replace the Third Street bridge in Thief River Falls. That project is scheduled for 2026. “I expect that one could slide back some,” Laesch said in terms of timing.
    Other scheduled projects include:
    • In 2020, resurfacing Highway 32 from St. Hilaire to Thief River Falls. Laesch said this would involve a “minimal impact.”
    • In 2020, resurfacing Highway 32 in St. Hilaire and improving pedestrian accessibility
    • In 2021, resurfacing Highway 1 from Thief River Falls to Highway 219
    • In 2026, resurfacing 0.4 miles of pavement of Highway 59 from County Road 62 to First Street East
    Besides construction projects, Commissioner Don Jensen spoke with Laesch about increasing the speed on County State Aid Highway 3, which is more commonly known as the cut-across. Jensen asked if it would be possible to increase the speed from 55 mph to 60 mph similar to how speed increases have occurred on Highways 32 and 59.
    Flaagan responded that the county could partner with MnDOT to do a study on highway speeds on CSAH 3.
    County Board accepted a low bid from Knife River Materials for the mill, overlay and shouldering of CSAHs 3, 8, 13, 18 and 24. Knife River had the low bid of $2,381,445.92. Four other contractors bid on the project. Flaagan said the engineer’s estimate was $2,897,553.73.
    County Board approved setting the Board of Appeals and Equalization meeting. The meeting will be held Monday, June 12 at 6 p.m. at the courthouse.
    Commissioners approved posting the position of full-time corrections officer internally and advertising externally for the position at the same time. The employee is expected to be on-staff in two months.
    Sheriff Ray Kuznia said the justice center can’t be built fast enough. “We are bursting at our seams, and everyone else was full,” said Kuznia, who noted that four inmates were transported in different directions a day earlier. Four additional inmates were expected to be transported that Tuesday.
    County Board approved spending $13,900.50 for a 2010 Ford E-350 van for Sentence to Serve. The van was purchased from a business in Rice.
    Kuznia said the sheriff’s office will use the old STS van to transport inmates.
    Commissioners approved the annual feedlot permit report. Thirty-eight county feedlots are required to be registered. Five inspections were conducted, said Levy Bergstrom with the Pennington Soil and Water Conservation District. Three inspections are required annually, but the year saw several construction projects.
    Commissioners approved transferring three-10ths of a mile of County Road 55 to the city of St. Hilaire. As part of the resolution, the county will pay the city $2,200. The roadway is an extension of Water Avenue in the city.
    County Board approved the memorandum of agreement for the Thief River One Watershed One Plan water plan.
    In a related, separate motion, commissioners approved sending a request for qualifications from four firms to write the Thief River One Watershed One Plan.
It is a single, concise and coordinated approach to watershed management. Beltrami County, Marshall County and the Red Lake Watershed District are also a part of the plan.
    County Board approved scheduling a public hearing for a proposed amendment to the county’s Sewage and Wastewater Treatment Ordinance. The hearing will be held Tuesday, April 11 at 11 a.m.
    If approved, the amendment would make it unlawful for a state-licensed inspector to inspect sub-surface sewage treatment systems in which the inspector has an ownership interest.
    The next County Board meeting is scheduled Tuesday, March 28 at 5 p.m. at the Pennington County Courthouse.