By the end of 2021, Hwy. 61 will be a much smoother ride through Grand Marais and the Grand Portage Reservation all the way to the Canadian border. Until then, though, watch for detours.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to resurface or rebuild more than 30 miles of the North Shore highway over the next two years, causing lane closures and signal-controlled traffic along parts of the well-traveled corridor.
The projects will cost about $35 million.
In Grand Marais, intersections will also be rebuilt with an emphasis on pedestrian safety and accessibility across the town’s main artery. Detours will start late this spring.
“We’ve worked really hard to make sure that it doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on anyone,” said Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux. “You can still get everywhere you want to go and do everything you want to do in Grand Marais.”
The project has been in the works for years and has caused some “bitter pills to swallow” for residents and businesses over the disruption it could cause, Arrowsmith DeCoux said.
“It’s definitely not without its controversy, but it’s going to have to happen at some point,” he said. “We definitely feel good about the project we wound up with at the end.”
The highway will be resurfaced from Coyote Ridge south of town to County Road 14 about 7 miles north.
Farther north, 17 miles of Hwy. 61 will be reconstructed from Reservation River Road to the Canadian border, at times requiring flag- and signal-controlled one-lane traffic.
The work across the Grand Portage Reservation will also replace culverts and bridges and add turning and bypass lanes. As with the Grand Marais work, construction will start this spring and last through 2021.