Highway 21 work to start mid-July, includes major detour for Johnson Creek culvert work

by Nick Wognum

For all the griping about the state of Highway 21 between Ely and Babbitt, making the repairs may cause some additional complaints.<BR><BR>The $2.9 million project will include a detour that could last several weeks to replace the culvert between Johnson Lake and One Pine Lake. <BR><BR>Hardrives of Zim was awarded the contract for the work by St. Louis County. <BR><BR>“We had a preconstruction meeting yesterday,” said St. Louis County resident engineer Earl Wilkens. “There are 42 pipes that need to be replaced on that project and that work will start in the middle of July <BR><BR>“Then the actual pavement work would start sometime in early August and the completion date on the entire project is Sept. 24.”<BR><BR>Nearly 15 miles of the busy highway between Babbitt and Ely will see a new driving surface as well as some subgrade work. <BR><BR>“What we’re going to be doing is three operations to the road. First we’ll mill off the old bituminous and then reclaim what is there, followed by a machine that looks like a giant rototiller that goes down about seven inches and then we’ll put on the new bituminous layers,” said Wilkens.<BR><BR>Frequent Highway 21 travelers will need to be prepared for delays during the project and for a major detour.<BR><BR>“One thing that will come up is that there is a large pipe for Johnson Creek and when we replace that there will probably be a detour set up on Highway 120 and Highway 1,” said Wilkens. “That detour will be in place for two to three weeks because at the same time we’ll be replacing 27 pipes on the north end.”<BR><BR>Wilkens said he expects the detour to start in mid-July although that could be adjusted to handle traffic for Ely’s Blueberry/Art Festival. <BR><BR>“We’re trying to work around that event. Our thinking was to get that work done before the festival starts,” said Wilkens. <BR><BR>Other parts of the project will include reducing traffic to one lane at times with flag people allowing vehicles through.<BR><BR>The project which includes state aid funds, has been pushed heavily by St. Louis County Commissioner Mike Forsman who recognized that the road was in need of complete repair.<BR><BR>“The road reached the end of the life of the pavement and we’re going right down to the base and essentially rebuilding it,” said Wilkens.<BR><BR>“We mill off some of the pavement, essentially one to two inches the first time and then four inches plus the reclaimer can go down up to seven inches, so really we’re building it from the base course up,” said Wilkens.<BR><BR>“The end result is the road should be in fine shape for many years to come,” said Wilkens.