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Highway 2 fixes on tap for 2014 road construction season; 15th Street bridge to get more clearance

Minnesota Department of Transportation assistant district engineer Jim Curran listens Thursday to a statewide press conference on road construction projects slated for this summer. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — As the old joke goes, there’s actually just two seasons in Minnesota: winter and road construction. As the former scattered snow outside Thursday, officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation detailed their plans for how the latter would affect the Bemidji area.

Closest to home for Bemidji will be a $1.25 million project to renovate and repair the 15th Street bridge over U.S. Highway 2, set to take place this summer. The bridge previously saw some temporary repairs last summer after a semi truck clipped the underside of the span.

MnDOT District 2 Engineer Craig Collison said the bridge has been hit “many times” but last year’s collision was only the second time repairs were needed.

MnDOT is taking advantage of the need to permanently fix the bridge by elevating the bridge’s clearance above the highway, he said. The 12-plus inches of new clearance is aimed at limiting the possibility of another truck hitting the bridge as oversized loads become more common.

“We’re seeing more and more large loads coming from the port (of Duluth),” Collison said.

The 15th Street bridge project will see at least some closures of Highway 2 from Fifth Street to the intersection with Highway 71, Collison said. Closing the highway helps save the taxpayer money that would be spent on building crossovers to temporarily reroute the highway around the construction site, he said.

Assistant District Engineer Jim Curran said the project is planned to start June 9 and finish Aug. 28, with two weekend closures planned.

Highway 2 itself will also get some added lanes for three stretches between Cass Lake and Deer River. However, work will begin in the fall, after the 15th Street bridge project, with the bulk of the construction likely taking place next year.

There will also be pavement resurfacing this year on extensive stretches of Highway 72 from Blackduck to Waskish. However, that project is relatively simple and measured in days rather than months, Collison said.

A pedestrian walkway is planned to be dug this summer near Highway 371 in Walker, and MnDOT will pave some of the gravel shoulders of Highway 64 in Akeley to make it more bike-friendly.

There’s one thing MnDOT wants to make clear for motorists no matter where they drive, however: stay alert, stay undistracted, and slow down in work zones.

Drivers can sign up for email updates on road construction projects at