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Backus: Highway 371 construction to begin; Work to include detour

Echo Journal Illustration This map shows the Minnesota Department of Transportation's approved Highway 371 detour from Backus to Hackensack in blue, and an alternate detour the Echo Journal identified in black.

Signs warning of impending road work went up on Highway 371 between Backus and Hackensack as a harbinger of a major project slated to start Tuesday, Sept. 4, which will completely close the highway from its intersection with Highway 87 East next to Godfrey's in Backus all the way to County Road 40 in Hackensack.

Earlier construction schedules included a plan to begin work this week, but the job contractor decided to wait until the detour starts Sept. 4 rather than limit traffic ahead of Labor Day. After work starts Sept. 4, Highway 371 will be closed in some places while entire sections of the highway are excavated from ditch to ditch to replace six drainage culverts, making the highway impassable north of Backus to Hackensack.

Two culverts at a time will be under construction with crews likely working every day but Sunday. If all goes according to plan, each culvert is estimated to take two days to finish with a goal of completion before Halloween.

The road resurfacing work was scheduled to begin Wednesday, Sept. 5, after Labor Day, at which time the Minnesota Department of Transportation will direct drivers to follow a 30-mile detour along Highway 87 East, State Highway 64, County Road 19 and County Road 40. This route was chosen because it is the shortest route that is paved and designed to handle highway traffic, as MnDOT policy requires.

There are, however, alternate routes that MnDOT could not consider for its official detour. One such alternate route the Echo Journal identified consists mostly of gravel roads but reduces the detour to 12.8 miles. Along this detour are routes that allow motorists to access their properties and businesses along Highway 371 while avoiding the culvert work sections.

Much of this alternate detour is unpaved and without shoulders. For the safety of residents along the route, motorists should use the undesignated alternate routes sparingly and drive responsibly on these gravel roads as they may share the road with pedestrians.

The construction timelines presented here are only estimates, and may change due to weather conditions or other delays. Refer to the map.

• Sept. 5 and 6: Culverts C and D.

• Sept. 7 and 8: Culverts B and E.

• Sept. 10 and 11: Culverts A and F.

Local residents or businesses who need to know where the highway will be impassable within the closed segment should contact Kirk Allen at kirk.allen@state.mn.us.

Alternate routes

Following is a list of routes to access businesses and properties that are expected to be active during the construction period.

• Alternate Detour: The unofficial alternate detour follows unpaved roads from Backus to the north end of Hackensack.

• South of Culvert F: Though all businesses south of Culvert F will be accessible during construction, some construction may be avoided by driving on County Road 117 to 87 East.

Businesses within the construction zone, but south of Culvert F include the Backus Trading Post, Scamp Travel Trailer Company, Dollar General, Northland Septic, WOW Church of the Cross, Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Dignity and Grace, Godfrey's Family Foods and Godfrey's Mini Storage.

This section, south of 87 East, will remain open with traffic control throughout the entire construction period.

• Business Access 1: Business Access 1 provides access to businesses and properties between culverts E and D, including Zafke Plumbing, Doreen's K9 Cuts and Paw Spa, 371 Welding, Saw Again, Lavelle Firewood, Pleasant Lake Storage and Anderson Gravel. Because culverts E, F and D will be under construction at different times, other properties farther north and south may also be accessible at different times.

• Business Access 2: Business Access 2 provides access to businesses and properties between culverts C and D. Because C and D will be the first culverts completed, limited traffic may be allowed farther north and south of these culverts after Sept. 8.

• Business Access 3: Business Access 3 is the only alternative route that must be accessed from Hackensack. It provides access to Paws and Claws Animal Rescue and Resort without going through the construction zone.

Detours

See page A2 for a map showing the Minnesota Department of Transportation's approved detour, and alternate detours the Echo Journal identified.

Open house

There will also be an open house from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Hackensack City Hall to provide the public an opportunity to ask questions about this road project.

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