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Highway 371: Highway 371 expansion details being fine-tuned

People will notice work starting on the Highway 371 expansion project in Pequot Lakes around January 2016, when tree clearing begins. Pequot Lakes City Council members learned this Tuesday, Feb. 3, when they hosted a meeting with representatives ...

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MnDOT Graphic.

People will notice work starting on the Highway 371 expansion project in Pequot Lakes around January 2016, when tree clearing begins.

Pequot Lakes City Council members learned this Tuesday, Feb. 3, when they hosted a meeting with representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Crow Wing County (CWC) to talk about the four-lane highway expansion project east of downtown Pequot Lakes.

Two factors have state, county and city planners working to fine-tune project details:

• Corridors of Commerce funding recently applied to the project moved the anticipated start date up two years, from 2018 to 2016.

• The possibility that the northern long-eared bat - present in the area - will be listed as an endangered species means tree clearing must take place when the bat is hibernating elsewhere. That would be between January and April 2016, said Jim Hallgren, MnDOT project manager.

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Bid letting would be set for October 2015, Hallgren said.

Key project elements being negotiated include road turnbacks and the city wastewater treatment system. All costs are still preliminary and are estimates as talks continue. City engineer Tim Houle with Widseth Smith Nolting said those involved continue to work on options to keep city costs as low as possible.

Road turnbacks/interchange

The overall scenario proposes the city accept portions of County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 11, County Road (CR) 112 and existing Highway 371, along with an estimated lump sum payment of $5,652,000 to improve those roadways. However, while these road turnbacks are proposed, the city has not accepted any of them yet.

Also proposed is that the city pay an estimated $558,000 for a $6.2 million interchange at the new Highway 371/CSAH 11 intersection.

MnDOT will take charge of the new state highway, where it veers to its new alignment from CR 168/107 south of downtown Pequot Lakes to CR 112 north of downtown. The following three roadway segments would go to the county or city for ownership and maintenance:

• County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 11 from the new intersection with Highway 371 west.

• CR 112 from CSAH 11 to the new alignment just south of Akerson Road.

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• Existing Highway 371 from CR 168/107 south of downtown to CSAH 17 north of downtown.

The county and city came up with different estimated costs for the county to pay the city to take over CSAH 11 and CR 112, with the average estimated cost of $1,452,500.

MnDOT would pay the county $4.2 million to improve existing Highway 371, which the county would then pay to the city, under the county proposal.

The road turnbacks are anticipated to occur in 2018, and negotiations continue. To properly maintain these roads, the city public works department anticipates it would need a larger, proper sand/salt building, another fully equipped and manned snowplow-sanding truck and a budget that is funded to handle the additional miles of road.

• Interchange: The $6.2 million would be split with MnDOT paying 70 percent and the county 30 percent. The city would pay 30 percent of the county cost, or 9 percent of the total interchange cost (the same $558,000 cited earlier in this story).

Wastewater treatment system

The new Highway 371 segment will go through the city's three wastewater spray irrigation fields.

Last month the council considered a sanitary sewer option that could cost an estimated $2 million; however, Houle later briefed the council on another option that would be less expensive.

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Talks are ongoing with the city, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and MnDOT.

Related Topics: PEQUOT LAKES
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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