New bridge opens this week

The surface of Hillside Avenue was the subject of a mill-and-overlay operation last week.

MnDOT is putting the final touches on the County State Aid Highway 7 (Hillside Avenue/Pokegama Lake Road) bridge over Interstate 35 this week, and Pine County is finishing up the last stages of their project along Hillside Avenue.

The bridge has been closed since July 22, as the original 1962 overpass was demolished and replaced with a new bridge designed to offer several improvements for drivers and pedestrians alike.

According to MnDOT officials, improvements to the overpass include a center left-turn lane and a sidewalk with railing and lighting on the north side of the bridge. The bridge has a four foot shoulder on the north side, and an eight-foot shoulder on the south side. The whole bridge is wider, and MnDOT reported that they are doing minor adjustments to the profile of the road which should increase visibility for people on the ramps.

This brings an end to the two-year, $24,220,127 road project in Pine County which also included replacing the north and south I-35 Snake River bridges, replacing the Highway 70 overpass in Rock Creek, and resurfacing the interstate between the Henriette Road overpass and Highway 70.

On Friday, Oct. 25, Pine County Engineer Mark LeBrun said that over the weekend MnDOT planned to finish paving the approaches to the bridge.

“We’re hoping to get that area striped on Monday or Tuesday,” Lebrun said. “They don’t want to open it until the stripe goes down.”

The $1.3 million Pine County project on Hillside Avenue started in September with the goal of improving traffic and the structural integrity of the roadway. The project included: sidewalk and American Disabilities Act improvements at intersections; spot curb and sidewalk repair; removing, grinding up and  overlaying of the top layer of blacktop pavement from Main Street to between 11th and 13th streets; a full new pavement section approaching the new interchange bridge and also on the west side of the interchange bridge on the new road grade and new culverts and storm sewer adjustments.

The project also include removal of the existing concrete “island” median on the east side of the 11th Street SW and Hillside Avenue intersection, which was removed and replaced with a painted median. LeBrun said the island proved to be an obstacle that caused more problems than it solved.

“It was creating some issues for maintenance in the winter trying to get snowplows through there,” he said. He said removing the island would also give drivers of trucks and other larger vehicles more of a turning radius.

The existing median on the west side of the intersection will remain in place.

LeBrun said the county planned to finish the sidewalks and then put a final layer of bituminous on the road this week, with work scheduled to be completed on or around Nov. 1.

LeBrun noted that the weather has not been cooperating with the road project.

“It has been held up at various times with the rain, so that has probably extended it a few weeks,” he said. “But everybody’s been pretty good about getting through ... and patience.”

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