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Hwy 10 project hits a speed bump

The Highway 10 reconstruction project in Wadena is still scheduled to begin in 2019, however someone's got their foot on the brake.

The project was scheduled to begin reconstruction in 2018, then 2019, and now it could be 2020 before construction comes to completion.

Rumors were abounding throughout Wadena in the last week that the project had been pushed off another few months, or another two years and even some speculation as to whether the project would ever happen.

MnDOT project manager Claudia Dumont looked to lay rumors aside saying that construction is still planned to begin in spring of 2019 but it could take two summers to reach completion. The latest delay is simply in the bidding process, which was planned to happen in December 2018 and is now planned two months later.

Wadena County highway engineer Ryan Odden said from what he took from the latest MnDOT meeting, construction will still begin in the spring as was planned. It's only a matter of timing for the bid process, which is planned to occur while Wadena's ground is frozen and crews are planning their schedules.

So who's tapping the brakes?

Dumont said the project is moving forward, but acquiring property seems to be keeping the project from speeding along.

"We are having problems getting the right of way secured from Burlington Northern Santa Fe," Dumont said. "They have a process ... they are not on the same timeline that we are."

Pushing back the bid opening is giving MnDOT added time to complete the acquisition from BNSF and other remaining properties between the rail and the highway. And while construction can't happen during the winter, the properties could still be cleared in preparation. The next step would be removing the utilities from along the highway. Both of those have to happen before any reconstruction. Whether it will take one construction season or two remains to be seen.

"Right now we are trying to figure out how many working days we need," Dumont said.

Odden said the plan would still involve MnDOT tearing out the south curb and any remaining structures out of the way. Reconstruction would take place on the south side first and once complete, traffic would be diverted unto the south side and the north side could begin reconstruction.

Funding is secured for the project and the plans are as good as complete. It's just a matter of getting all the pieces to align, Dumont said.

In the meantime, MnDOT still has property to clear out to make way for the new expanded highway. One property includes the Orton's BP convenience store on the corner of Hwys 10 and 71. Owner Frank Orton said that while they originally thought they would have to vacate the business a year ago, and then thought they would have to close by Labor Day, he now is unsure how long they will remain open as he has not had any recent communications with MnDOT through his attorney.

"We pretty much plan to stay open until they tell us," Orton said. So far, three other properties have been either demolished or removed as part of this project.

Hwy 10 background

Highway 10 through Wadena was originally constructed in 1948 and has been resurfaced four times. The road was last resurfaced in summer 2017 to preserve the roadway until the reconstruction project can begin.

The planned project will reconstruct Highway 10 between Birch Avenue and County Road 4 in Wadena. Improvements along the redesigned segment in Wadena include:

• Raised concrete median to separate eastbound and westbound Highway 10 traffic,

• Dedicated turn lanes for safe access to local roads,

• Improved intersections and sidewalks,

• Upgraded signal systems,

• Improved storm sewer, city utilities, lighting and signing.

The two-lane rural sections of Hwy 10 between Bluffton and Birch Avenue, and from County Road 4 to Oink Joint Road, will be resurfaced. Also, new left-turn lanes will be installed at the Highway 10/County Road 75 intersection, west of Wadena.

When complete, the work is said to improve safety, accessibility and drainage in the area, and provide a smoother ride along 5.7 miles of Highway 10.