County considers more intersection lighting and wider shoulders on the lower Gunflint Trail

On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, Cook County Commissioners considered two requests from County Engineer David Betts, which he described as “a little controversial.”

First Betts asked to set an informal public hearing to discuss the possible installation of intersection lighting at county state aid highway intersections. Lighting would be installed at County Road 8 and County Road 12; County Road 7 and County Road 6; County Road 7 and County Road 45. Betts said “downcast cutoff lights” will be used to minimize the spread of the light.

The work, if approved, would be done in 2015.

The second topic Betts brought to the table was the possibility of installing a two foot wide paved shoulder on the Gunflint Trail from the Grand Marais water tower to the four corners intersection near Gunflint Hills Golf Course.

One caveat to the installation was that it would include rumble strips, said Betts.

Betts said the county received a grant from the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) for 2015 for about $90,000 to pave the shoulders and include rumble strips on the shoulder, but said that the grant was written before all of the controversy erupted over rumble strips.

“As we have certainly seen by the letters in the paper, there’s a real lack of appetite for rumble strips,” said Betts.

Commissioner Garry Gamble said that the commissioners should have a public meeting about the project because they have committed to that process in a workshop held specifically to discuss highway department projects. He asked Betts what he recommended.

“My recommendation would be to turn back the rumble strip money. All we would gain is rumble strips. We wouldn’t gain any useable space,” said Betts, noting that a rumble strip would be two feet wide. “I don’t see a lot of benefit to this.”

“This can’t be parlayed into another grant, or another operation. It can only be used to put rumble strips on the Gunflint Trail,” said Betts.

Gamble said he commended Betts for his recommendation to not take funding just because it was available, joking that “We don’t live in a democracy, but a grantocracy.”

Because Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk was absent and the potential shoulder paving project was in her district, they agreed to hold a public meeting so her constituents could be heard.

“The key is to get the public to the meeting,” said Commissioner Hakes.

The board agreed to set a public meeting at its Tuesday, July 15 meeting at 10:30 a.m. and to hold an additional public meeting on Monday July 14 at 7 p.m. at the commissioner’s room to discuss both topics. Although the meetings would be together, each topic—lighting and rumble strips—would be separated for discussion.