Click here to read more about an effort to press for improvements to Highways 10 and 169
by Joni Astrup
When Bryan Olson describes the challenges Cretex faces when hauling long concrete girders out of its plant in Elk River, one incident stands out.
A semi hauling a beam was pulling out of the plant onto Highway 10 when a car flew past the flag person and drove under the girder. “It actually blew right underneath,” said Olson, operations manager with Cretex.. “They tapped the brakes a little bit because the cables grazed the top of their car and … just kept going.”
Olson said the situation has improved with more police on duty. But access to Highway 10 from the plant at 1340 6th St. is “a bit treacherous” when hauling product in and out, he said.
Eastbound traffic trying to turn into the plant is one of the more difficult maneuvers, as there is no turn lane on the highway. “They’re actually braking right on Highway 10. Traffic accidents that have occurred as a result of that,” Olson said.
A long-range plan for Highway 10 would change all that. It would turn the highway through greater downtown Elk River into a limited-access freeway. For Cretex, it would mean the plant access would be via a new interchange at Upland Avenue, allowing Cretex traffic to merge into the highway traffic.
“There would be no more crossing traffic lanes with our products,” Olson said. “It would be much safer.”
Olson is a member of the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce’s Corridor of Commerce Highway Taskforce, which is active on transportation issues like securing improvements to Highways 10 and 169.
Funding is a hurdle.
“What we have to do is continue to put political pressure on (lawmakers),” Olson said.
The city of Elk River has funded plans for Highway 10 and Highway 169 in Elk River, but no federal or state funding is available at this time to turn those plans into reality.
Olson said the area has seen a significant population increase in the last 20 years, but no significant improvements to those two highways.
Improving the two highways in Elk River would enhance safety and mobility, have a positive economic impact and have some environmental benefits as well by reducing the time vehicles spend idling in traffic, he said.
“This is a very positive thing for Elk River, and not just Elk River but surrounding communities as well,” he said.
He said there’s support as far away as Mille Lacs Lake.
A coalition is growing, in part because Highways 10 and 169 are a major artery for people going to recreational areas further north, he said.