This report is from a trip to Duluth with Monte Castleman, on August 17, 2006.
On this day, I took a trip up to Duluth with Monte Castleman...my first time
in Duluth in 15 years. Toured around various locations, checked the widening
status on US 53, and even made it as far north as Virginia before we turned
around and headed home. Below are notes from the trip:
- Noted how MN 65 has been 6-laned in the vicinity of the US 10 interchange in Blaine. The 6-laning only extends about 1/2 mile north of US 10 though.
- Somewhere near or north of CSAH 12/109th Ave NE, the speed limit on MN 65 goes to 60 MPH. Further north, north of CSAH 116/Bunker Lake Blvd, it goes to 65 MPH.
- It's been over 15 years since I was last on MN 65 north of Blaine. Used to be that CSAH 22/Viking Blvd was the last traffic signal you passed until you got to Cambridge. There are now 4 more in between.
- At Isanti CSAH 5 in Isanti, the trailblazer guide sign uses a pentagon shield, while the sign on the signal mast arm uses a white square shield.
- When proposed, the Cambridge bypass on MN 65 was proposed as a full freeway, with interchanges on each end and at MN 95. As built, the only interchange was built at MN 95, with a signalized intersection at the south end (CR 43) and an at-grade intersection at the north end (CR 30). There's enough right-of-way preserved for an interchange at the south end, though, should MnDOT wish to upgrade that junction.
- A center left-turn-lane now exists on MN 65 through Grandy.
- A short 4-lane section exists on MN 65 at the MN 107 junction. There are long-range plans to 4-lane MN 65 up to here from Cambridge.
- Several locations in Isanti and Kanabec Counties where we saw use of the "Speed Limit xx ahead" diamond warning sign by MnDOT.
- There is now a traffic signal at the southern MN 23/MN 65 junction just south of Mora. This signal did not exist before.
- MN 23/65 through Mora is generally a 2-lane divided road with a 40 MPH speed limit, partial access control, and channelization/turn lanes at intersections.
- A bridge reconstruction detour on MN 23 just east of MN 107 required a creative detour. This is where the state DeLorme atlases come in very handy...:o)
- I-35 has several locations between Hinckley and Duluth in dire need of pavement rehab or replacement.
- What had been a rest area on northbound I-35 north of Barnum has indeed been closed.
- Some bridge and guardrail work around the CSAH 13/Midway Rd interchange had a lane closed.
- Noted how the downhill grade into Duluth on northbound I-35 has a 45 MPH truck speed limit. Normal speed limit is 55 here.
- Found it interesting that the control city for both US 2 East and I-535/US 53 South was simply "Wisconsin".
- Bridge and bridge rail redecking has various ramps at the I-35/535/US 53 interchange closed at various times.
- No MN 194 shield on the Mesaba Ave exit signage from I-35, even though all indications (including a 7/26/06-updated MnDOT route log) suggest the route still exists.
- My first time through the four tunnels on I-35 northeast of downtown Duluth, as mentioned by Adam Prince's recent trip report. Very nicely done. I have now finally clinched I-35 in my home state.
- The control city for MN 61 at "Exit 259" (basically a free-right movement at the end of I-35) is "NORTH SHORE". An overhead sign posted on the 21st Ave E overpass says "Two Harbors FOLLOW MN 61".
- Between I-35 and where the 4-lane expressway towards Two Harbors begins, MN 61 is basically a 2-lane, 30 MPH street with an occasional left turn lane striped. There are several neat houses along the shoreline and fronting MN 61, as Adam Prince noted. Some are mansions. Several look like simple blue-collar houses, which makes sense since Duluth is very much a blue-collar town.
- From here, Monte and I followed Skyline Parkway south/southwest through the city. Skyline Parkway is an older path along the edge of the ridgetop overlooking Duluth, the harbor, and the river. Several segments look to be of WPA (i.e. 1930s) vintage, while some segments have been incorporated into the Duluth street system. The turns are generally marked, although Monte and I found a couple that weren't marked. There is even an unpaved/gravel segment of Skyline Parkway, south of Spirit Mountain near the south end. There are several pull-offs offering very good views of the city, and the parkway goes near Enger Tower, an observation tower where one can climb to the top and get excellent views of the surrounding area.
- At the south end of Skyline Parkway is a sign stating "END OF SKYLINE PARKWAY", with arrows pointing the directions "TO INTERSTATE 35" and "TO U.S. HWY 23", even though 23 is a state route and not a US route.
- Followed the old US 61 expressway between the St Louis/Carlton County line and Scanlon. The main intersection in Esko, now a 4-way stop, has overhead mast arms that suggest there was a traffic signal here before I-35 was built. Also, at the west end of the expressway, at CSAH 45, a MN 45 trailblazer shield remains, even though MN 45 only goes between I-35 and MN 210.
- Speaking of MN 45, a dyslexic (i.e. opposite) "two-way road" sign exists southbound just south of I-35.
- Approaching Jay Cooke State Park on MN 210, a warning sign says "ROUGH ROAD NEXT 7 MILES". And it was very rough at that. Needs a full pavement reconstruction, but probably isn't going to happen anytime soon.
- No mention or reference to Wisconsin whatsoever on the part of MN 23 that cuts the corner. If you didn't know of the situation, you'd think that MN 23 never left Minnesota.
- MN 23 is generally a 4-lane undivided road from MN 210 all the way to I-35, about 9 miles...which also happens to be fully within the Duluth city limits.
- The MN 39/WI 105 bridge over the St Louis River is an old combination road/rail bridge. The rail line is on the upper level, and appears to have carried two rail tracks across at one point (only one track now). The road deck is suspended underneath the rail deck and has only a 14-ft vertical clearance and appears to be only 18-20-ft wide. There are sharp curves on either end of the bridge with warning signs "TRUCKS MUST NOT MEET VEHICLES ON CURVE". On the Wisconsin side you pass through the small village of Oliver, but except for a CTH W shield you don't get any signs or indications you're in Wisconsin until you're over 1/2 mile from the bridge. The Minnesota side is a little better, with a MN 39 shield on the first curve after the bridge.
- After crossing the Bong Bridge on US 2, if US 2 was supposed to extend further east/southeast as a 4-lane divided highway, the only indication of such in the field is a slight widening of the median before you get to Belknap St.
- Pavement repairs on I-535 between I-35 and Garfield Ave.
- An END I-535 shield exists on the southbound approach to the Hammond Ave/N 5th St intersection in Superior, right next to a Best Western parking lot.
- Followed US 53 up the ridge from I-35/535 up to MN 194. The first widened segment north of 21st Ave W/Superior St is nicely done. Partial access control, a couple overpasses (one of which as a "WELCOME TO LINCOLN PARK" plaque on it), and decorative bridging and sound walls. The Skyline Pkwy overpass has "SKYLINE PARKWAY" etched into the bridge on each side. The 4-laning continues to north of Arlington Ave, where widening to a 5-lane undivided section is underway up to Miller Hill Mall.
- Took Central Entrance (MN 194) back towards downtown. From just east of US 53 to Mesaba Ave, most of it is 4-lane undivided with several driveways and access points.
- Off of Garfield Ave and just northeast of the Blatnik Bridge (I-535), one can access what's left of the old Interstate Bridge, which was the main bridge between Duluth and Superior before the Blatnik Bridge opened ca. 1961. The bridge reminds me of the Harahan Bridge in Memphis or the Huey Long Bridge in New Orleans, in that the main superstructure/span carried two railroad tracks, with a one-way road cantiviliered (sp?) on each side. One can still see wooden poles barely submerged in the shallow water which held up the roadway approach spans on the Duluth side.
- Went across the Aerial Lift Bridge and down Minnesota Point as far as one can go. The road ends at the entrance to Sky Harbor Airport, which is a seaplane airport. The last numbered street heading down the point is 43rd St S, although several of these cross streets are little more than dirt/gravel alleyways.
- The drive up Lake Ave from I-35 through the north side of downtown to Mesaba Ave exemplifies just how hilly Duluth is. This is *NOT* a town I'd want to have to commute in during the winter...
- At this point we left Duluth, first heading west on MN 194 (thereby clinching MN 194), a short stint on US 2, which is 4-lane divided in the vicinity of MN 33, then north on MN 33 and US 53 towards Virginia.
- Noted several "xxxxxx Township" signs along US 53. While this is fairly common in some eastern states (New Jersey comes to mind), it's rare in Minnesota.
- Approaching Eveleth on US 53 was a welcome sign for the "Quad Cities" of Eveleth, Virginia, Gilbert, and Mountain Iron.
- Searching for remaining signs of the US 53/169 duplex, we found NONE along US 53 itself. All 169 shields that used to be along US 53 are now gone. We found only two other indications of the 53/169 duplex, a "JCT US 53/US 169" sign on the 9th St N approach to the US 53/CSAH 102 intersection, and a "NORTH US 53/US 169" trailblazer on the US 169 overpass over US 53. It should be noted that the 2005 MnDOT street-series map for Virginia still notes the US 53/CSAH 102/9th St N intersection as being where US 169 becomes MN 169, while the updated 2006 route log suggests there is no 53/169 duplex with US 169 ending at US 53 in Virginia (at the 53/169 interchange) and MN 169 ending at US 53 north of Virginia (at the 53/MN 169 interchange).
- Headed north briefly to check out the new US 53/MN 169 trumpet interchange. The interchange project also realigned about 1.5 miles of US 53 onto new alignment, bypassing an old/narrow/substandard railroad overpass and replacing it with a new 4-lane bridge over the railroad near MN 169. The old railroad overpass has been replaced by an embankment and a bike/ped culvert underneath the railroad connecting to the old road on either side.
- Took US 169 southwest to Hibbing. 169 is a good quality 4-lane road between Virginia and Hibbing, becoming a 50 MPH commercial strip (albeit with access control...no private access points) through Hibbing itself.
- St. Louis/Itasca CSAH 16 is one of the somewhat-rare occasions where a county route retains the same number after crossing a county line. A few other examples offhand include Scott/Dakota CSAH 42, Stearns/Wright CSAH 75, and Pine/Carlton CSAH 61.
- Took US 2 between MN 65 and MN 200. US 2 is one of those 2-lane Minnesota routes that carries a 60 MPH speed limit, as referenced in a recent MTR thread. There's a passing lane section a few miles east of MN 65, which I think is a good idea on major 2 lanes roads that carry moderate traffic, but not enough traffic to justify 4 lanes.
- Took MN 200 to MN 65, then south to MN 232. MN 232 is one of those routes that was going to be turned back a few years ago, but MnDOT could not come to an agreement with Aitkin County at the time, so the route remains on the MnDOT rolls.
- MN 232 ends in Palisade, which is a small town where the only thing of note I found was the Soo Line Trail passes through it. The Soo Line Trial is a former rail line that ran from Cass Lake to Moose Lake, and has since been converted over into an ATV/snowmobile trail with a neat pull-through truss bridge over the Mississippi River at Palisade.
- On MN 210 a little east of US 169 was a township road that had junction and trailblazer signage along MN 210. One likely reason why is because the road used to be a county route, judging from older road maps.
- Took US 169 back into the Twin Cities. Much of US 169 around the Mille Lacs Lake area has been repaved recently...several segments still lacked centerline striping when we drove through.
- Although MnDOT's plans to 4-lane US 169 between Onamia and Garrison have been shelved, traffic along the route remains heavy and still justifies a 4-lane route. That said, roughly 2.5 miles near the Grand Casino Mille Lacs has been upgraded to a 4-lane urban divided section, albeit with a 45 MPH speed limit.
- The permanent 4-lane section on US 169 begins just south of the northern 169/MN 27 junction.
- Noted the completion of US 169 interchanges at Sherburne CSAH 9 south of Princeton and at Sherburne CR 33 in northern Elk River. Both interchanges were funded with one-time state surplus money that the Legislature allocated in 2000.
- Construction is well underway on the Wright County interchanges on MN 101. Full interchanges are planned at CSAH 39 and CSAH 36, with 3/4 interchanges at CSAH 42 and CSAH 37 connected by a frontage road along the west side of MN 101.
- Construction is also underway on replacing the Hennepin CSAH 30 interchange along I-94 with a new interchange connecting directly to Dunkirk Ln.
- Bridge repairs along northbound I-494 in Plymouth resulted in a northbound lane closure and a roughly 2-mile-long backup.
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