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Cook County Connections: Updating the 10-Year Transportation Plan

Feb 09, 2024 08:50AM ● By Content Editor
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From Cook County, MN - February 9, 2024

By: Cook County Highway Engineer Robert Kimmel-Hass


The Cook County Highway Department updates its 10-year transportation plan annually to reflect upcoming improvements to our infrastructure system. Factors such as pavement quality, bridge ratings, and funding sources go into determining which projects get scheduled.

I have spoken and written about the state of our bridge inventory in the past and I am happy to report we have made considerable progress on replacing eligible structures. Over the last several years we have replaced about half of our eligible structures and by 2027 all our eligible structures will have been replaced. What this has allowed us to do is to pivot attention onto our culvert inventory and begin a more robust inventory of those structures. Preliminarily, we have identified about 90 culverts that could get upsized, meaning a 36” diameter culvert turns into a 60” diameter culvert for example. Of those 90 culverts that have been identified, 30 of those could potentially become bridges, meaning any structures that span more than 10-ft across. That would be a considerable uptick in our bridge inventory (we have 61 bridges currently).

It’s exciting to be able to dive into a more robust analysis of our culvert inventory knowing that the work we do will go towards improving our waterways in areas of sediment reduction, fish passage, reducing flooding, and creating a more resilient and reliable infrastructure system. Along with the upsized replacements there are also the culverts that don’t need to be upsized but have been flagged for replacement due to age or corrosion for example. These structures will be incorporated into our 10-year plan as well.

Managing pavement on approximately 120-miles of road through the county requires a substantial financial commitment. There are some sections throughout the county that have been typical “bad actors” for years: the Gunflint Trail between the 92s, the end of Devil Track Road past Ball Club Road, Tofte Park Road, and Chicago Bay Road to pick on a few. Each of these represents roads on our CSAH system and our local county road system showing needs across all road types. Funding is slightly more limited when it comes to road projects, i.e. while bridge bonds exist there are no road bonds but that’s not to say there aren’t other options.

Two funding sources we have been successful with applying for and obtaining have been through the LRIP (Local Road Improvement Program) and FLAP (Federal Lands Access Program) grants. Each of these represents outside funds we can leverage to further improve our infrastructure and offset local costs.

Every even numbered year we receive a report from MnDOT cataloguing our PQI (Pavement Quality Index). This rates our pavement on a scale of 0-4 with 4 being brand new and 0 being the worst. Several segments of road in our county rate less than a 2 meaning more substantial work is required besides just a simple resurfacing. Costs increase the more work you must do so eliminating as many of these segments as possible in this plan will allow us to do more in the future.

While there is more than one way to plow a road there is also almost an infinite number of ways our 10-year plan could look. Our job is to balance the aforementioned factors with others and determine what will have the most impact in our county.

For additional information, please give us a call at the Cook County Highway Department, 218-387-3014. For maps and a list of projects in our 10-year transportation plan, please visit the Highway Department page on the County website at www.co.cook.mn.us.

Take care and see you on the road!

 

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community.