Project is on schedule, MnDOT official reports

    At last week’s Crookston City Council meeting, Mayor Wayne Melbye said that he’d heard from someone the repair and improvement project on and around the Highway 75 Bypass bridge just west of Crookston was a week ahead of schedule. But, the mayor quickly added, he’d also heard from someone else that the project was two weeks behind schedule.

    So where does the truth lie? Close to the middle, but closer to the end with the positive news. TJ Melcher, public affairs coordinator for District 2 of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, tells the Times that the project is expected to be finished on or by Friday, Sept. 28, meaning the bypass would be reopened to traffic in time for the sugar beet hauling campaign, which typically commences on Oct. 1 each fall.

    Melcher said he didn’t get a lot of details from the project manager when he spoke to him Friday after the Times reached out seeking an update, but he realizes that the only detail that matters to Crookston residents and others impacted by the bypass’ closure is when it’s going to reopen.

    “The bottom line is, it’s on schedule,” Melcher said. “It’s not ahead, nor is it behind.”

    When the project with a price tag of just under $4 million was announced this summer, the timeline had a completion projection for the end of September. It involves repairs and improvements to the bypass bridge and its approaches, and work on the shoulders and other areas of the bypass itself.

    The project has caused headaches for some in Crookston, as the bypass’ closure has resulted in a significant uptick in the volume of car and truck traffic coming through downtown, including trucks filled with sugar beets during the American Crystal Sugar pre-pile campaign.

    The project was funded through the funding allocation to MnDOT via the capital investment/bonding bill approved by the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton last spring. District 1B State Rep. Deb Kiel, at a campaign event Friday for Republican U.S. House 7th District candidate Dave Hughes, was asked about the unfortunate timing of the project. She said the funds for the project were made available in July and the work began soon after. “But, yes, you couldn’t have picked a worse time,” Kiel said. “It’s been traumatic for the community.”