Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Hwy 53 road work could snarl traffic this summer

Marcus White
Posted 4/24/19

REGIONAL— Road construction on Hwy. 53 is likely to create a few more traffic headaches this summer as drivers make their way along the region’s most heavily-traveled corridor.

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Hwy 53 road work could snarl traffic this summer

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REGIONAL— Road construction on Hwy. 53 is likely to create a few more traffic headaches this summer as drivers make their way along the region’s most heavily-traveled corridor.

As part of their 2019 construction season, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will be adding four new passing lanes along Hwy. 53 between Cook and International Falls. MnDOT will also undertake a full reconstruction of the Hwy. 1 and Hwy. 53 intersection, located about five miles south of Cook.

The work is expected to begin in mid-July. The intersection work should be completed in August, while work on the passing lanes is likely to continue until October.

Project Manager Josie Olson said MnDOT plans to convert the Hwy. 1 interchange into what the agency calls a “reduced conflict intersection.”

Driver’s headed to Duluth and points southward pass this same type of intersection in Cotton.

“MnDOT has studied these intersections all across the state and has seen reduced right-angle crashes,” Olson said. “That is the goal with this project. With this intersection in particular, what we noticed when the four-lane came through in 2014 was an increase in crashes of vehicles crossing the second lanes of traffic.”

Drivers making a left turn to either Hwy. 1 east or Hwy. 22 west from the expressway will now have dedicated turn lanes across the roadway.

The largest change is for cross-traffic and drivers wanting to turn left from either of the side roads.

Drivers crossing over Hwy. 53, or turning left onto the roadway from Hwy. 1 or County Rd. 22, will have to make a right turn onto the expressway and use dedicated U-turn lanes to cross over the center median before either continuing on their way or making a right turn back to Hwy. 1 or County Rd. 22.

North of Cook, four additional passing lane segments will be completed. Currently the highway has dedicated passing segments over the Gheen Hill and another just north of Orr. Olson said more are needed to keep traffic flowing through the corridor.

Each of the new segments will be 2.5 miles long and expand the roadway to three lanes with each direction getting an approximate one mile passing lane in each segment.

The first will be north of Olson Road, between Cook and Orr.

The second will be north of the Lost River Bridge between markers 118 and 121.

The third is west of Ash River Road between mile markers 136 and 139.

The fourth and final segment will be north of Koochiching County Hwy. 29 between mile markers 149 and 152.

Olson said MnDOT will only allow contractors to work on two of the segments at a time to reduce traffic backups. During construction, the contractors will likely be reducing the highway to one lane, with flaggers on either end.

She added the agency will post when road restrictions will occur to their website.

More information and updates on the project can be found at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/hwy53-1-st.-louis-koochiching/index.html.

The Hwy. 53 project is the only major construction work scheduled in northern St. Louis County this year. Several area projects are on the construction schedule for next year, including the resurfacing of several miles of Hwy. 169 in Wuori and Pike townships.

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