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Three contractors vie for Highway 371 project

Brian Johnson//August 5, 2015

Three contractors vie for Highway 371 project

Brian Johnson//August 5, 2015

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has narrowed the field of potential design-build contractors for the upcoming $58 million expansion of Highway 371 in Crow Wing County.

Maple Grove-based C.S. McCrossan, Black River Falls, Wisconsin-based Hoffman Construction and Sleepy Eye-based Mathiowetz Construction have emerged as finalists for the project, which will improve safety and traffic flow on an 8-mile stretch of highway between Nisswa and Jenkins.

A contractor is expected to be chosen Oct. 14, based on a technical score and cost. Construction is scheduled to start in 2016 and finish up in 2017.

A request for qualifications hit the streets in April, and proposers provided their “statement of qualifications” in early June, MnDOT project manager Jim Hallgren said.

“We shortened the list down to three teams and each of those three teams has the RFP and is putting together their proposal for us,” Hallgren said.

Hallgren said the selected “best value” team will do both the detailed design and construction, and will work with MnDOT to “get this project underway.”

Cutting through a heavily forested area populated with endangered northern long-eared bats, the Highway 371 expansion is no ordinary project.

As Finance & Commerce has reported, clearing and grubbing will have to be done when bats aren’t in the trees. That leaves a short window of opportunity for the work between January and April of next year.

“It’s not your simple mill-and-overlay type project,” Hallgren said.

A gateway to northern Minnesota, Highway 371 is a popular route for tourists. The project is designed to improve safety and traffic flow by expanding the highway from two lanes to four lanes.

According to MnDOT, the scope of work includes:

  • Four lanes of roadway, access improvements and bridge work in Nisswa.
  • A new four-lane “gateway” with improved access to businesses, a new interchange with roundabouts at County Road 11, improved road connections and a realigned Paul Bunyan Trail with a new trail bridge over Highway 371 in Pequot Lakes.
  • Four lanes of roadway, safety upgrades, trail improvements and a new signalized intersection at County Road 16/Meyers Road in Jenkins.

The improvements have been in the works for years.

“We started the environmental documents and preliminary design back in 2002, so it has been hanging on for quite a while,” Hallgren said.

Mike Loven, public works supervisor for the city of Pequot Lakes, said one question was whether the highway should go through or around town. Local residents were divided. Ultimately, MnDOT settled on a bypass around the city.

“It is a big deal. It has been about a 10-year fight,” Loven said.

The project is being paid for in part with $45 million from the state’s Corridors of Commerce program, which aims to “improve or preserve the movement and reduce barriers to commerce” on key interregional corridors, according to MnDOT.

Highway 371 was one of 13 projects selected for Corridors of Commerce funding in 2014. Bid savings from the Highway 610 project and other efficiencies in the MnDOT program allowed Highway 371 to be added as the 13th project.

The Corridors of Commerce money accelerated the project by two years, MnDOT said.

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