June 23, 2023 at 12:29 p.m.
The fellowship hall at Lord of Lakes Church was filled with various local public safety and elected officials, state lawmakers, and others who came together last week for a coffee and cookie reception and an update on Highway 8.
The appropriations effort at the state and federal levels has successfully “secured” $80 million in total. The next phases are writing final specs, awarding bids, obtaining permits, and then getting in the ground.
While there are contractors in this immediate area capable of participating in this long awaited project, neither state nor federal funding language requires local firms to be given any priority. MNDOT is overseeing the bid process.
The reconstruction of the highway from Forest Lake at I-35 to Chisago City is scheduled to get underway late 2026 or 2027, according to Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplett
It will require more than one season. The schedule will be firmed up later, when final environmental clearance is given. Research is assessing the presence of endangered species habitat.
Triplett explained “local road designs” or revisions to existing secondary routes, will be somewhat dependent on the environmental documents. “There are a few chess pieces to arrange on the board,” he quipped.
Wyoming and Chisago City have seen preferred project layouts and councils have approved plans within their borders.
Many direct access points onto Hwy. 8 are being rerouted to frontage road (parallel) options. Plus there will be new alignments to create safety at intersections.
There is one round-a-bout in the plan at Karmel Avenue in Chisago City, at the east terminus of the work.
Triplett said he estimates he’s met personally over the years with a majority of landowners affected in this project, but anybody who has a concern or unanswered question is welcome to contact his office at Chisago County Highway.
Senator Dean Erdahl from District 16, Grove City, who is in his 11th term, showed up. He heads up the Capital Investment Committee for the minority. He commented that he was glad to be around to celebrate funding for this because, having been on the MN Capital Investment Committee in St Paul for 18 years, he has heard of the dangers on highway 8 the whole time. “I get invited to alot of (appropriations) celebrations...this is one I didn’t want to miss,” he shared. In a written commentary on his state Senate webpage, the senior senator noted that capital projects may not be the “cash back” some lawmakers advocated for, but people of Minnesota indirectly benefit when projects are funded. Also attending were Brian Johnson, state House member and state Senator Mark Koran. A couple staff representatives were there for U.S. Senator Tina Smith.
Wyoming Mayor Lisa Iverson commented the project should resolve some Wyoming property owners’ access concerns and boost development of highway properties, saying “...this is huge for us, for the whole county.”
Chisago County Sheriff Brandon Thyen thanked the legislators who listened when he went to the capitol and knocked on doors. Law enforcement who respond to crashes and first responders are grateful improvements are coming.
Chisago County took the lead on promoting and getting early highway design done and four County Board members were also attending; Rick Greene, Dan Dahlberg, Marlys Dunne and Jim Swenson along with former County Board Commissioner George McMahon.
The county pursued the lead role because it didn’t appear MNDOT had Hwy. 8 placed highly enough as a priority. The $14 million earmarked for routine maintenance for the highway has shifted that into reconstruction too.