169 ahead of schedule, on budget

NEW ROAD - Rock treatment looking east on the Highway 169 project. MNDOT photo.

by Tom Coombe -

Those driving between Ely and Soudan can’t miss the construction and may have encountered a delay or two as a result of the ongoing Highway 169 improvement project.
State transportation officials are slated to deliver a status update Friday at 1 p.m. at the Eagles Nest Town Hall, but in advance of that session they have already sent out welcome news: the project is both ahead of schedule and on budget.
MnDOT is already several months to a major improvement initiative that has been in the works for two decades.
After a series of funding and environmental roadblocks, the $16.4 million initiative started in April and is on track, according to project manager Michael Kalnbach.
“This project was in design for more than ten years,” said Kalnbach. “Initially we faced some concerns due to the high amounts of sulfides and the volume of rock. It took some time to address those concerns, but now the project is in large part close to being done.”
Through the end of July, about 40 percent of the project had been completed as crews reconstruct about 5.7 miles of roadway in the Eagles Nest and Six Mile Lake areas of 169.
According to MnDOT, some of the new paving and the new bypass is already complete and the east half of the road is scheduled to be finished by Thanksgiving.
Crews will continue to work on the west portion as long as weather permits and then resume work in the spring.
The project which is scheduled for completion in July, 2018.
A local task force, including leaders of numerous local governments, worked since the 1ate-1990s to pursue improvements to 169 and they were successful in securing special federal appropriation funds from the late U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar.
When complete, the 169 project will:
• Improve sight lines and passing safety;
• Provide safer pull-off areas;
• Improve ditching and drainage
• Minimize wetland impacts and rock excavation.
Friday’s status update will not include a formal presentation, but the public is invited to attend.
More information on the project can be found at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/Hwy169eagles/index.html