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Full house for MnDOT Highway 61 construction update

It was standing room only at Grand Marais City Hall for the MnDOT presentation on road construction coming in 2019-20.
It was standing room only at Grand Marais City Hall for the MnDOT presentation on road construction coming in 2019-20.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation held an Open House on Wednesday, November 7 at Grand Marais City Hall. It was standing room only in the council room as about 60 community members gathered to hear the latest on the plans for reconstruction of Highway 61 as it runs through the city.

Brad Scott of LHB Engineering gave an overview of the project, reminding the public that this process began in February 2016.
Michael Kalnbach of MnDOT gave a presentation of the plan, explaining the two-stage process starting in 2019 on the outskirts of Grand Marais and then continuing in 2020 in the heart of Grand Marais.

Kalnbach described the detours and traffic control measures that would be in place throughout the process. He shared photos of just what visitors and community members can expect to see as the project advances, such as the 10-foot deep trench that will be cut for utility work and when the contaminated soils are removed from the Cobblestone Building and Harbor Inn area.

The agenda for the meeting called for one-on-one discussion following the presentation, however members of the public said they would like to hear questions from others, so MnDOT and LHB answered questions from the audience for about an hour before breaking into smaller discussion groups.

There were questions about traffic control about specific intersections; about MnDOT’s work at Fall River where a bridge is being built on the Gitchi Gami Bike Trail; about access to businesses; and about future snow removal in the city. Concerns were expressed about parking during the project.

Grand Marais resident Dick Powell asked if MnDOT would help repair the roads that were to be used as detours, such as the road he lives on, County Road 7.

Although officials have said the highway design has been finalized, public comment forms were available for the public, with MnDOT asking for feedback on suggestions for minimizing disruption to the community during the construction project.

Anwers to questions and other information will be posted to the MnDOT Highway 61 project website.

WTIP was at the meeting and Rhonda Silence shares this report.