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MnDOT plans another closure of Highway 371

Traffic moves along Highway 371 near Backus Thursday afternoon. The highway is slated for a construction project from Backus to Hackensack and expected to close for five weeks after Labor Day. Denton Newman Jr. / Brainerd Dispatch

BACKUS—Just when people thought traffic disruptions were over on Highway 371 north of Brainerd with the new four-lane segment open, word began to circulate about a Highway 371 closure from Backus to Hackensack.

In February, Cass County commissioners approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to allow County Highway 40 to be used as part of a detour around Highway 371 from Backus to Hackensack.

Cass County commissioners began getting a lot of concerned calls from business owners worried about losing sales in peak summer months. The commissioners were as much in the dark on details as anyone.

The detour will occur, Kirk Allen, MnDOT construction project supervisor, confirmed in a telephone interview Thursday, but not until after Labor Day.

MnDOT plans to do a full reclaim of pavement from Highway 87 on the north edge of Backus by Godfrey's store to the south edge of Hackensack, where County Highway 40 meets Highway 371.

It seems not only does pavement wear out, but also fixtures like culverts. MnDOT plans to repair and replace those as well. This will necessitate digging across the entire roadbed in places, thus the temporary road closure.

There will be some preliminary work along the highway beginning Aug. 20, Allen said. Highway 371 will remain open to through traffic, however, until after Labor Day. There may be some lane closures and flaggers in late August.

There is no start date for the closure of up to five weeks yet, because a contract has yet to be awarded for the actual construction project, Allen said.

During the Highway 371 closure, through traffic will be routed west at the south edge of Backus (the corner where Backus Corner Store is located) to Highway 64, then north to Hubbard County Highway 19 (which becomes Cass County Highway 40). Travelers will turn east at the Highway 64 junction with County Highway 19/40 to arrive at the south end of Hackensack.

None of the streets in either Backus or Hackensack will be closed for this project.

Local traffic will be able to move between the south and north junctions of Highway 87 with Highway 371 at Backus throughout the project, but some travel may be on gravel surfaces at times, Allen said.

He also indicated MnDOT will work with residents and business owners in the closed Highway 371 section to enable them to get in and out of their properties throughout the project.

The public is invited to a 4-6 p.m. informational open house March 20 at the Cass County Land Department, 218 Washburn Ave., Backus. MnDOT officials will describe project details and answer questions at that meeting.

The public also can track the project on MnDOT's website at www.dot.state.mn.us/d3/2018/h371/.

Allen can be contacted by email at kirk.allen@state.mn.us or by phone at 218-828-5739.

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