MARSHALL - October isn't the ideal month to start a major road construction project, but that's the situation MnDOT finds itself in with a resurfacing project on U.S. Highway 59, south of Marshall.
The project, originally slated to begin Sept. 11, had already been delayed three times for numerous reasons. The latest hiccup is a result of a delays on a project in North Dakota, which is where the crew and equipment for the Highway 59 project is coming from.
"We're waiting on the asphalt plant coming from North Dakota," said Paul Rasmussen, MnDOT District 8 resident engineer. "We heard (Monday) morning the asphalt plant could be here a week from Wednesday, assuming they don't lose a lot more time because of rain up in North Dakota."
The plant Rasmussen is referring to is the machinery that mixes the aggregate and the oil together to make the asphalt.
Rasmussen and MnDOT public affairs coordinator Judy Jacobs said MnDOT is at the mercy of Mother Nature and at this point in the year are working with less daylight.
"They're delayed in North Dakota because of rain; every day they get rain up there is a day they can't work and another day they can't get down here to do this job," said Rasmussen. "At this time of year, weather gets to be a problem with temperatures, rain - every time it rains it takes longer to dry everything up. And you lose daylight. In July you have 18 hours of daylight, now we're getting less than 12."
"The crews are on an aggressive schedule - they work sun-up until sun-down, so the shorter hours is really critical," Jacobs said. "It gives them less time to get out there working."
The project is now expected to begin either Friday or Monday with the removal of the old cable guard rails, which will be replaced with plate beam rails.
Rasmussen said the guard rail work is being held off because MnDOT wants the two aspects of the project to coincide as much as possible.
"They could get started sooner, but they don't want to tear it all out and wait around the asphalt plant too long; they want to minimize the length of time that slope is exposed without guard rails.
The $2.3 million project will include a new two-inch overlay of asphalt.
MnDOT urges drivers to slow down and be cautious when driving the highway as the guard rail work begins and throughout the duration of the project. When resurfacing gets under way, traffic will be directed by flaggers with a pilot car, and motorists should expect delays of about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the time of day, MnDOT said.
Rasmussen said the project will take anywhere from three weeks to a full month to complete, meaning crews will be on the highway into November.
"That's certainly not unhead of," he said. "It depends on the year. We've gone into December before, but that's a rarity."
MnDOT is planning another project closer to Marshall - the installation of a right turn lane on U.S. Highway 59 north out of Marshall by Titan Machinery. Rasmussen said that project will take five to 10 working days to complete. There is no official start date yet, "but it should go relatively quickly," Rasmussen said.