Wright County prepares for Interstate 94 construction

For those who have to travel west on Interstate 94 through Wright County, they can expect delays once again as road construction slows traffic on I-94 and diverts drivers onto Wright county highways.
County Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins came before the board at its March 5 meeting to get approval for a detour agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to put signage on I-94 informing drivers they can use CSAH 75 and CSAH 8 as detour routes during summer construction.
“The agreement allows traffic to be diverted during peak times when there will be backups,” Hawkins said. “I-94 will be down to one lane between Clearwater and St. Cloud starting in May and running through the end of July. When the construction in that same area took place last fall, the backups were in Wright County, typically in between Clearwater and Hasty. I-94 won’t be shut down during the construction, but will be one lane for two or three months. The agreement allows for drivers to be informed that alternate routes are available.”
Hawkins, who lives in St. Cloud, had to travel that construction route himself all last fall and said that the delays were maddening at times because you never knew when traffic would be clear or when it would be stop-and-go for miles. This time around, he said that the construction is expected to be a bit more organized than the hit-and-miss traffic delays from last fall.
“They didn’t plan for the road work very well last year,” Hawkins said. “Some days there would be long delays. The next day it would be clear sailing. There is an incentive in the contract to be done by the end of July, so it will likely be a lot more organized than it was last year.”
There is also scheduled to be an overlay project on CSAH 75 this summer, but Hawkins said that construction won’t begin until after the detour route is lifted in late July.
In other items on the March 5 agenda, the board:
* Scheduled a budget committee of the whole meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday March 28 to get public input on the county’s final 2012 budget report. Commissioner Charlie Borrell asked that the meeting be held at night so members of the public that wish to attend the meeting can have the opportunity.
* Authorized signatures on an annual boat and water safety grant between the sheriff’s department and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The grant is for $24,020.
* Laid over for one week bids received for the CSAH 35 bridge replacement project. Six bids were received, the lowest being $1.58 million from Mathiowetz Construction of Sleepy Eye. All bids came in over the engineer’s estimate of $1.5 million. The bids were laid over for review and the project will be formally approved at the March 12 board meeting.
* Decided to bypass a requested referral to the building committee a request from court administration for the replacement of carpeting in high-volume area. The carpet in high volume areas is very worn and, in some places, held down with duct tape. Commissioner Mike Potter said that the carpet is in horrible condition and asked that, instead of referring it to the building committee to get quotes, the county should authorize County Coordinator Dick Norman to obtain quotes and get the carpet replaced as quickly as possible.
* Set the annual Boy/Girl County Day for Tuesday, April 23. The annual event brings high school juniors from throughout the county to the county courthouse to tour the facility and meet with department heads to get a first-hand look at how county government operates.
* Approved language changes to the joint powers agreement between the county and Buffalo Township concerning the Grand Castles Estates development. The development went into bankruptcy after a handful of houses in the development had been sold. As a result, the roads leading into the development were unfinished and have fallen into disrepair. In exchange for allowing a new developer to complete the project, the county was given $100,000 to make the repairs to the road in the development itself. Costs over $100,000 will be split by the county and Buffalo Township. The Buffalo Township Board had already approved the changes at its last meeting.
* Announced the cancellation of the April 30 board meeting due to five Tuesdays in the month.
* Authorized board attendance at the Association of Minnesota Counties Land Use Training Seminar March 22 in Baxter.
* Acknowledged receipt of the January monthly report from the Tri-County Regional Forensics Laboratory.
** Approved a maintenance agreement with McLeod County for Co. Rd. 103, which is shared by both counties and serves as the county line between the two.

Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.