About half a dozen vehicles on County Road 24 were in park for more than 30 minutes June 12, as a southbound train sat on the tracks – not moving – blocking the only access to the east end of the road.
Residents of what’s considered a county state aid highway, also known as the Van Lynn Road, exited their vehicles to verbally release frustrations of the late-afternoon delay.
“I called the sheriff and apparently a crane broke,” one woman said.
Prior to the southbound train stalling, a northbound train had come and gone on the dual set of Canadian National Railway tracks, which added to the more than half an hour delay. Residents report similar situations occur multiple times daily.
Local officials are hoping to resolve the issue soon, before train delays could create a life-threatening situation.
The Koochiching County Board Tuesday agreed to adopt a resolution that supports a bonding request of $3 million to acquire land, design and construct an overpass on County Road 24. The project is estimated to cost about $6.3 million.
“It’s been a long time coming, we’re still getting delays out there,” said Commissioner Kevin Adee, who lives on the east side of the tracks. “I get calls from residents who (experience delays). People are getting tired of it.”
Bonding requests to the state are never guaranteed approval, and county Assistant Engineer Trent Nicholson said Tuesday he will seek letters of support from affected residents, local school district officials and other emergency service agencies.
“We will be looking for letters of support from residents in the area that will really hit home on the personal aspect of the inconvenience as well as emergency services deficiencies we could see,” he said. “I would encourage the residents of County State Aid Highway 24, and all others affected by the railroad crossing, to write a letter of support detailing the struggles they have experienced at the crossing and/or the potential struggles that could be experienced with respect to health, safety, and quality of life.”
Commissioner Wade Pavleck said having someone testify on the issue could also be beneficial to securing bonding dollars.
“International rail traffic continues to grow,” he said. “This is a unique traffic issue.”
Letters must be written prior to the grant application deadline of July 9. Letters should be addressed to: Secretary Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20590.
Letters can also be sent to: Koochiching County Highway Department Attn: Trent Nicholson, 715 Fourth St., International Falls, MN 56649
For answers to questions about the issue, Nicholson can be reached at 218-283-1187.
In other business Tuesday, a face familiar to many accompanied Nicholson at the board meeting: Doug Grindall, former county highway engineer, is serving as a part-time interim engineer until a permanent replacement is hired.
The men presented bids for two summer highway projects, which the board agreed to award both to Northland Constructors of Duluth Inc.
The first project is for a full depth reclamation and overlay on the first 10 miles of CSAH 8.
“This is our big project for this year,” Nicholson said.
The price tag for the project came in at $2.8 million, about 17 percent below the engineer’s estimate.
Grindall said other Minnesota county officials have expressed complaints about the increase in price for road projects, but noted Koochiching County was “doing really well.”
In addition, county Highways 15 and 36 will be patched, costing $67,669.
“Northland will actually be in that area working on Highway 6,” Nicholson said. “Northland has a really good reputation; we’re excited to work with them.”