MARSHALL - By the time winter really settles into the area, work on U.S. Highway 59 will finally be wrapped up. Now, all the Minnesota Department of Transportation has to do is make sure it has enough people to keep highways like 59 open during the winter season.
MnDOT public affairs coordinator Judy Jacobs said Friday the agency is putting the call out for snowplow drivers who are willing to work in an on-call capacity this winter out of its Redwood Falls truck station.
"We struggle every year with it," Jacobs said about having enough drivers. "Some people come back year after year after year. They're happy to have the money, but they have to be available when the snow hits."
Jacobs said temporary snowplow drivers can only work for 45 days in a calendar year, which can become an issue if the snow season is prolonged, much as it was this past spring when southwest Minnesota saw a number of snow events in March and April.
"That can always be an issue," she said. "Last spring it was. But this works out well, especially for some of the farmers who like to keep busy during the winter."
And the money isn't bad, either - $16 to $17 per hour. Drivers must pass all pre-employment checks (driver's license check, criminal background check, physical and drug screen). MnDOT will provide a one-day orientation session and two to three days of snow and ice training. MnDOT will pick up the tab for pre-employment physical cost, orientation, and training. Drivers are also subject to random drug and alcohol testing after being hired and must possess a valid Minnesota Class A or B CDL with no airbrake restriction and tanker endorsement. Drivers must also have one year CDL driving experience (for transportation generalist), must be able to report to work location within an hour of being called to work and must be able to speak English. Anyone interested can call 320-231-5195.
As far as the Highway 59 project is concerned, road crews on Friday were putting some of the finishing touches on the highway. The start of the $2.3 million resurfacing project, which was originally set to begin Sept. 11, was delayed multiple times, which resulted in the project spilling over into November. This week's snow caused another delay, but crews were back on the road Thursday and Friday, doing guard-rail and shoulder work. The project is expected to be completed next week when crews put down interim pavement markings. Since temperatures aren't conducive to the regular, permanent striping, wet-reflective paint will be applied in grooves in the pavement.
"They are beads that reflect better when wet and at night, and plows won't scrape it off," said MnDOT Project Supervisor Nick Klisch. "It looks normal, but it's not the final product. It lasts about four years."
Crews will apply the longer-lasting paint in the spring, along with rumble strips in the centerline and on the shoulders of the highway.
The new surface stretches from the 59 intersection with U.S. Highway 14 to near the intersection of 59 and Lyon County Road 9. Motorists will still run into minimal delays until the project is completed.
Work on the right turn lane on U.S. Highway 59 north out of Marshall by Titan Machinery will also wrap up next week, Klisch said, with signage and seeding along the work site.