Lutsen hears from MnDOT on plans for Highway 61

Three officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) appeared before the Lutsen town board on Tuesday, October 15 to discuss next summer’s work on Highway 61 that will impact Lutsen businesses, locals and visitors to the North Shore.

Todd Campbell, a civil engineer who is the assistant district engineer for program delivery for MnDOT District One, which encompasses eight counties in northeastern Minnesota, led the discussion.

Campbell said work will probably begin in May, and that a 10-mile stretch of road from Onion River to a couple of miles east of Cascade will receive a 3½ inch overlay after crews first strip 3½ inches from the current surface.

“Eleven culverts will be replaced before any overlay is put down,” said Derek Fredrickson, who will oversee the Lutsen project for MnDOT.

Lutsen Supervisor Ginny Storlie asked if MnDOT had any plans to widen the road and make bigger shoulders, especially for the many bicyclists who peddle through the area, Campbell said no.

“I think widening the shoulder would be great, and you might think widening the shoulder wouldn’t be a big deal, but it is quite dramatic to add shoulders and we don’t have the funds to do that right now,” Campbell said.

Several people attending the meeting asked if MnDOT was going to require a contractor to add rumble strips to either the center line, the sides of the road or to both, but Fredrickson said that while the rumble strips were still in the plans, two weeks ago they were told to take them out and for now, they won’t be included in the work.

Campbell said the overlay was part of new national highway standards called pavement preservation, or “reconstruct light.”

“This is a decent fix, a significant upgrade from what is now there,” said Campbell, adding, “But it’s not the highest standard to fix the road.”

The new owners of Solbakken Resort asked if work would go on 24 hours of the day, and if so, could they find a way to get some relief for guests who would be trying to sleep. Fredrickson said to call him and they would work with the contractor when the project moved to their location. “I will talk to the contractor and they almost always are willing to work with affected businesses,” he said.