Road construction blitz mars Iron Range travel

PHOTO: Frankie Leon, Flickr CC

PHOTO: Frankie Leon, Flickr CC

Just as spring turns to summer, and summer gently fades to fall, so too will road crews hustle hard when the temperatures drop.

The old joke goes, “Minnesota only has two seasons, winter and road construction.” Since road construction is limited by weather, the end of the season is often a mad dash against time. Construction companies that had dedicated themselves to big projects around the state now rush to complete unfinished work.

That’s why anyone trying to drive across the Iron Range this week will likely experience delays as late season projects crop up throughout the Mesabi.

In the west, crews continue work on Highway 169 between Taconite and the entrance to Scenic Highway 7. Motorists will be able to get through, but intermittent delays remain possible. The project will extend four lanes to Highway 7, further expanding the “Cross Range Expressway,” promised our ancestors 50 years ago.

Additionally, the Wabana Road that connects Balsam, Lawrence and Wabana townships to Highway 38 north of Grand Rapids will still see intermittent delays and detours. Crews closed the road last week to install new culverts.

Highway 5 will be rerouted through Chisholm starting Monday, Sept. 19. The Chisholm Tribune Press reported on the temporary conditions for travelers north of Chisholm and Hibbing Taconite employees:
The closure of the detoured area will allow work to connect the new Highway 5 to the existing one, while helping to ensure the safety of workers and motorists, St. Louis County stated in a recent release.

A segment of Highway 5 from Highway 169 to County Road 136 will be closed starting Sept. 19, and all traffic will be detoured into Chisholm. The detour route is Highway 169 to Highway 73 and County Road 84.

All vehicles traveling to Hibbing Taconite will need to enter from the north via Highway 84. Signs are expected to be posted this week alerting motorists of the coming changes.

In the meantime, a temporary traffic signal is being installed at the intersection of Highway 136 and Highway 73, near the west entrance to Chisholm. The plan is to turn this traffic signal on during the week of Sept. 26.

The re-aligned portion of Highway 5, at the traffic signal, is expected to be open to traffic Friday, Sept. 30. That will mark the end of the detour on County Road 84.

New mining by Hibbing Taconite forced the county to move the highway. That project will continue next summer, installing a roundabout outside Chisholm. That will go along with another big new roundabout in Hibbing next year. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Further east, Highway 37 will also be closed between Highways 7 and 53 this week. Many take this route to get on Highway 53 south from Hibbing and points west. Canadian National will install new tracks at its crossing there. That project will last through the week.

Fayal Road, the entrance to Eveleth, will also be under construction this week.

If you think all this is crazy, it doesn’t even cover all the projects that won’t start until the first snowflakes fall. For that is the true test of desperate men.

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