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Minnesota county engineers honor Haines Road project

The Minnesota County Engineers Association recently recognized the Haines Road as “Project of the Year.” The honor is given to the project that best demonstrates design innovation, noteworthy accomplishments under adverse conditions, community involvement and environmental and historical considerations.

As part of Tuesday’s Board presentation, a large plaque was unveiled, and will be permanently mounted near the underpass on Haines Road later this spring.

The planning process to rebuild Haines Road actually began more than 10 years ago and was within one year of implementation when the June 2012 flood caused extensive damage to this key route traveled by approximately 7,000 vehicles every day.

Despite the immense scope of the project — it’s the largest individual road construction project ever for St. Louis County Public Works — engineers were able to modify and accelerate plans, to complete in one construction season what had been expected to be a two-year project.

This included working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to allocate storm repair funding toward a planned reconstruction project.

Innovative design techniques were needed throughout the project due to the steep terrain, as engineers worked to safely accommodate the needs of pedestrians, bikers and others, in addition to motorists.

The end result includes an extra uphill lane for vehicle traffic, wider shoulders and a sidewalk, storm sewers, storm water ponds, retaining walls, railroad crossing improvements and an underpass for users of the Superior Hiking Trail, a snowmobile trail and a mountain biking trail. In addition, travelers on Haines Road are now treated to breathtaking views of the city, St. Louis River and Lake Superior.

“We always knew Haines Road was going to be a big project,” said Jim Foldesi, St. Louis County public works director, “but the flood, and some of the conditions we encountered once the project began, really challenged us. I couldn’t be more proud of the people who worked on this project and their creative problem-solving that resulted in a beautiful new road, and I appreciate MCEA recognizing their innovative work.”

Hammerlund Construction was the primary contractor on the project. Other key partners included LHB Engineers & Architects, Federal Highway Administration, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City of Duluth, City of Hermantown, Skyline Planning and Preservation Alliance, Cyclists of Gitchee Gummee Shores (COGGS), Superior Hiking Trail and the Over the Hill Night Riders snowmobile club.