169 project moving along

by Tom Coombe -

Motorists have encountered a bumpy road surface and have encountered a few delays as the Highway 169 improvement project has ramped up.
State transportation officials hosted a project status update Thursday, and the $16.4 million initiative is progressing as expected.
“It’s kind of on schedule, they’re moving along pretty good,” said Bill Erzar, who attended the session and chairs the local Highway 169 Task Force.
About 5.7 miles of roadway in the Eagles Nest and Six Mile Lake areas of 169 will be improved, and the area has turned into a construction zone with trees cleared, blasting and the presence of large trucks and road crews on site.
“About five percent of the project is complete, and they’ve got 30 percent of the rock blasted already,” said Erzar.
One takeaway from Thursday’s session was safety.
“They almost had a head on (in the construction zone),” said Erzar. “Somebody was passing a semi truck in a no passing zone. They’re also talking about people being on their cell phones and not paying attention to what’s going on.”
Erzar said delays of about five or 10 minutes have been common, and longer ones will occur during blasting.
Rock mitigation is part of the project and testing so far has found “nothing out of the ordinary,” according to Erzar.
The project will:
• Improve sight lines and passing safety;
• Provide safer pull-off areas;
• Improve ditching and drainage
• Minimize wetland impacts and rock excavation.
Formal groundbreaking ceremonies, involving local officials as well as U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, were held April 13 to celebrate the start of the project nearly 20 years in the making.
By the end of the 2018 construction season, 169 will be straighter and safer, according to state transportation officials.
The project calls for complete reconstruction in segments that will be realigned, while other portions of the project route will be widened and resurfaced.