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Officials update status of construction projects in Brainerd-Baxter

South Sixth Street is closed between Laurel and Washington streets as crews begin roadwork there Friday, July 27, in Brainerd. Kelly Humprey / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 2
Highway 210 is still open as the Cypress Drive project continues Friday, July 27, in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 2

In case anyone missed the memo, it's construction season in Minnesota—a painful reality for Brainerd-Baxter drivers forced to navigate a maze of streets coned, taped and barricaded in shades of neon orange.

Some initiatives are nearing completion, most are at about the midway point, while one is just getting started. Here's a quick update, Friday, July 27, on the major construction projects in the conjoined towns.

South Sixth Street reconstruction project

"The weather has dried out, the soil is considerably better and we're moving a lot faster than we were before," said Joe Cameron, the project manager from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Cameron said crews started tearing up the northern portions of the project—Laurel Street to Washington Street/Highway 210, primarily at the rail intersection. Laurel, Maple and Front streets were left open for the sake of Brainerd festivities Friday, July 27—though Front Street, Cameron said, likely would be closed shortly thereafter.

While some final work needs to be done on the Willow Street-Joseph Street section of the project—or what constitutes the first phase of the project, it's southernmost portions—that section is now open for motorists, but they should be watchful for construction workers.

Most of the second phase—between Willow and Pine streets—is completed below ground level, Cameron said, with crews planning to install topsoil, pavement and other surface amenities by about Tuesday.

Cypress Drive corridor project

Work began July 6—so far, primarily in the form of preparatory steps. Construction workers are installing tarps and frames for soil erosion control, clearing trees, undertaking miscellaneous removals and grading off existing roadway areas.

Scott Hedlund, the Short Elliott Hendrickson project manager, said crews are still laying the initial groundwork for later steps—though, there was work on reshaping and preparing the corridor that will connect the unattached portions of Cypress Drive.

"This week they've been doing a fair amount of grading on the southern portions of the project, south of the tracks," Hedlund told the Dispatch during a phone interview. "If you go down on that south end and look around, it's pretty amazing. You can look right across Highway 210 and see College Road on the other side."

Hedlund also noted crews will begin work on Highway 210 Monday, July 30, working in night shifts 7 p.m.-6 a.m. to reshape the highway lanes, realign traffic lights and create a suitable four-way intersection for the new Cypress Drive. Traffic will be down to a single lane overnight on Highway 210 during the project.

College Road repavement project

During a phone interview, project manager Chuck Rickart told the Dispatch crews have been working since July 9 to tear up and repave the section of College Road from Highway 371 to Cypress Drive. The project was necessary, he said, when the current pavement deteriorated faster than expected.

As of Friday, crews had completed some of the curb and gutter work, which is expected to be finished early next week. The pavement of the roadway is expected to be completed late next week, with the project on schedule to be completed Aug. 10-15.

Constructed as recently as 2012, the pavement mixture used at the time for the road was a popular pavement across the state in the early 2010s and propagated by MnDOT.

However, the large aggregate (or the diameter of the largest rocks in the mixture), coupled with a thin coating of surface oil that quickly wore off with heavy traffic, meant it was susceptible to leakage. Gaps quickly formed and water slipped through, froze and expanded, causing potholes to form. The material has proven ineffective across the state.

In addition, Rickart said a few small culverts also need to be replaced, though the lion's share of the work is above ground.

In the meantime, while roads are reconstructed, Rickard advised patience and caution to drivers in the Brainerd-Baxter area.

"We're working on it as quick as we can and I hope they're finding the detour working fine," Rickart said. "We'll be done shortly. People just need to have a little patience."

Excelsior Road and Edgewood Drive improvement project

According to a news release by the city of Baxter, the Excelsior Road stretch (Highway 371 to west of Edgewood Drive, closed July 16) was intended to be reopened Friday, July 27.

However, due to scheduling for the completion of the curb and gutter and placing the bituminous surface, it will remain closed for an additional two weeks to complete this work. The roadway is expected to be open by 5 p.m Aug. 10.

Patch work

The following Baxter streets will undergo road work beginning Monday.

• Circle Pines Road,

• Emily Road,

• Emily Circle,

• Kelly Drive,

• Kelly Circle,

• Parkwood Drive (from County Highway 48 to Mountain Ash Road),

• Parkwood Court,

• Flintwood Drive, and

• Wedgewood Drive (east of Parkwood Drive).

Milling of the existing pavement will begin during this time with placement of the new pavement expected to be completed by the end of the week of Aug. 6 (weather permitting). Local access to properties will be maintained during construction. There may be times during the milling and paving operations that access to driveways may not be possible, but this will be temporary.