Cook County Highway Department prepares for 2024 construction projects and awaits winter’s arrival
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Cook County Highway Department prepares for 2024 construction projects and awaits winter’s arrival

With a relatively snowless start to the winter in northern Minnesota, many county plow truck drivers are feeling restless.

“I think everybody’s antsy and raring to go,” Cook County Highway Engineer Robbie Hass said. “We have a lot of trucks that are ready to plow some snow, and we’re just waiting.”

Rather than plow snow, the plow truck drivers have been attending to isolated icy sections of road throughout the county. Due to the lack of snow so far, Hass said the start of this winter is a bit disappointing compared to the previous two winters. “If Mother Nature’s listening, bring it on. We’re ready for it.”

As the highway department waits for winter’s arrival, Hass said the department needs one more plow truck driver with a CDL-A license. Interested individuals with a CDL-A are preferred, but the highway department welcomes applicants with a CDL-B license. For the CDL-B applicants, an approximate six-month grace period is given while pursuing a CDL-A.

2024 Construction Projects

Come spring, the highway department will hit the ground running on a handful of county-wide construction projects. Starting on the east end, the highway department will conduct a road realignment and construct a new timber bridge near the Grand Portage National Monument.

“The purpose of that project is to move traffic, move vehicular traffic off of the historic stone bridge,” Hass said. The historic stone bridge on Mile Creek Rd will stay in place but transition to a pedestrian bridge. Vehicular traffic will then be diverted farther north, connecting Store Rd and Upper Rd via a timber bridge. “So that’ll be a pretty big project.” The highway department intends to host informational public meetings in Grand Portage in the coming months for the public to learn more about the project.

Another major 2024 construction project involves the Gunflint Trail. The project will start at the intersection with Fifth Avenue in Grand Marais and stretch to the “Four Corners” area near Devils Track Road. The undersized culvert just south of the “Four Corners” intersection will be replaced with a 160-foot single-span bridge, and the entire stretch, including the Cutoff Rd, will be resurfaced. 

“There’s kind of a lot of different small components to this project,” Hass said. In addition, a bypass lane heading up the Gunflint Trail will be added, totaling four lanes from the intersection of Fifth Avenue to Pincushion Overlook.

On the county’s west end, a reconstruction project involving mill and overlay is planned for Tofte Park Rd. “Right now, we’re still in the design phase on that one, but we’re still, I think, on track for 2024,” Hass said.

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Cook County Highway Engineer Robbie Hass about the 2024 construction projects and his thoughts on the start of a snowless winter. Audio from the interview is below.