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Monday, August 31, 2015

Corrigan Op-ed: Superior Street reconstruction project a model for state

Duluth isn’t alone when it comes to the need for street repairs. Unlike many other cities, however, Duluth’s mayor and City Council members have taken an aggressive, proactive approach in their fight to fix, maintain and even improve crumbling streets.

An estimated 15 to 20 miles of city streets are being fixed each year. That’s quite an accomplishment for a community that once considered five miles of road repairs a good year. And this at a time when the city is dealing with the loss of about $6 million it once received through a casino revenue-sharing agreement with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Duluth is to be commended for its efforts to maintain and improve city streets and infrastructure. One project in particular, the planned reconstruction of Superior Street from Sixth Avenue West to Fourth Avenue East, may very well serve as a model for other cities and counties.

Running through the heart of downtown, Superior Street is one of Duluth’s oldest streets and is a major connector for commerce and tourism. Each day more than 11,000 vehicles travel over the brick pavers that have donned the street for more than 20 years. In 2013, portions of the brick were removed and replaced with asphalt due to deterioration. At that time, city officials said the temporary solution was initiated with the understanding that a long-term design process would be taken, and the public was encouraged to be involved.

Since then, five public hearings were held with well over 100 people attending each meeting. At least one more public meeting I’m aware of is scheduled before a final plan emerges.

The city no doubt has had to consider competing interests each step of the way, including parking needs, pedestrian use and traffic flow. And it’s heartening to know city leaders have listened to the people who have taken the time to participate in the process and offer their feedback on proposed design alternatives.
Current plans call for diagonal parking on the upper side of Superior Street and parallel parking on the lower side. And, to make the streetscape more inviting for people, the city has looked to provide space for outdoor dining, trees, shrubs, flowers, benches and public art. Below the surface, the existing water and sewer lines, first installed in the 1880s and 1890s, will be replaced. Above ground, those bricks probably will be replaced by a brighter decorative concrete design.

With proper maintenance, it should be another 40 years before the city will have to tackle another Superior Street reconstruction project.

The city’s transparency throughout this whole process has been commendable. In addition to encouraging public participation, city leaders have been diligent in their efforts to keep the public fully abreast as the project develops.

Visitors to the project’s website — — can find project presentations, summaries of each public hearing, survey results and even a compilation of individual responses to questionnaires about the project.

While the overall price tag of the street’s reconstruction, including the utility infrastructure below, could be as much as $20 million, once completed, the project will properly showcase downtown Duluth to residents and visitors.

And those first impressions do matter in a city that boasts about 3.5 million tourists each year with an estimated economic impact of $780 million.

In his 2011 State of the City speech, Mayor Don Ness talked about the importance of investing in the city’s streets and infrastructure and the cost of failing to do so.
“Decades of pinching pennies on infrastructure now forces us to spend massive amounts of tax dollars to do nothing more than provide an emergency patch,” he said. “After decades of neglect, we are now paying the price.”

Unfortunately, Ness was right. Decades of neglect are forcing many Minnesota cities to turn to quick fixes or pavement alternatives that cost less initially but are not as long-lasting and may result in more costs in the long run.
That’s just one more reason to admire the Superior Street reconstruction project. City officials aren’t looking for a quick fix; they’re looking for a long-term, concrete solution to their transportation infrastructure needs.

Well done, Duluth.

Fred Corrigan, executive director, Aggregate & Ready Mix Association

Monday, August 10, 2015

Oldcastle® Architectural Acquires Anchor Block Company and Anchor Wall Systems

Oldcastle® Architectural has acquired Anchor Block Company and Anchor Wall Systems, giving North America’s largest producer of concrete masonry and hardscape products an increased presence in the high-growth region of the upper Midwestern United States.

Anchor Block Company manufactures a broad range of concrete masonry and hardscape products and is the licensed manufacturer of Anchor Wall Systems products. The range of Anchor products includes retaining walls, pavers, edgers, architectural block, concrete masonry units and outdoor living products. The company’s primary manufacturing facility is located just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“The additions of Anchor Block Company and Anchor Wall Systems to Oldcastle’s masonry and hardscapes business will serve as a platform for continued growth throughout the Midwest,” said Tim Ortman, president of Oldcastle Architectural. “Each company brings expertise and commitment to product innovation that will ultimately benefit Oldcastle’s collective business, customers and employees, well into the future.”

Learn more about Oldcastle® Architectural.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Construction industry strapped despite adding 2,600 jobs in June

Construction outfits in Minnesota added 2,600 jobs in June, continuing a solid run during the summer months that has offset a slight lag earlier in the year.

The additions extend growth in the sector going back to April, according to seasonally adjusted data released Thursday by Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development. June’s gains pushed total construction jobs to about 110,000 – the most since July 2008.

Read more in Finance & Commerce.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

PCA, Chamber sue EPA, Corps of Engineers over Waters of U.S. rule

Portland Cement Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and three other plaintiffs are mounting perhaps the most decisive challenge yet to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) final rule, imploring a federal judge to vacate the measure in its entirety.

If the final rule takes effect, the complaint states, “Plaintiffs’ members will suffer real economic harm to their businesses and property values because they will be forced to submit to expensive, vague, burdensome, and time-consuming federal regulations before they can perform the most mundane activities on their property. Numerous industries representing a broad swath of the U.S. economy will feel the brunt.”

Monday, July 13, 2015

The many misconceptions about Minnesota's new buffer program

During a face-to-face dialogue Tuesday with local legislators, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners left no doubt about their priorities: infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.

Read more in the West Central Tribune.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

27 states sue EPA over waters rule

According to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), 27 states have filed lawsuits alleging federal expansion over state waters. The challenges say the Waters of the U.S. rule violates the Clean Water Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana filed a joint complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, claiming the rule is unconstitutional. Ohio and Michigan filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, alleging the expansion of jurisdiction includes dry land. Montana, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, saying the final rule would harm states as regulators of the waters and lands. Finally, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, asking the court to vacate the rule and block its enforcement by injunction.

Read more in Pit & Quarry.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Rare Blanding's turtle could go on federal endangered list

The federal government is considering adding the Blanding's turtle to the endangered species list, as the yellow-throated reptile that once thrived throughout the Upper Midwest can now only be found in large numbers in parts of Minnesota and Nebraska.

Read the story at Minnesota Public Radio.

Friday, July 3, 2015

New leaders for League of Minnesota Cities

Steve Nasby, the Windom City Administrator, has been elected president of the League of Minnesota Cities, which provides more than 800 member cities with advocacy and training.

Nasby has worked in Windom since 2006; before that he worked in Iowa City.

The League also has hired David Unmacht as executive director, replacing Jim Miller, who retires this summer after 22 years as head of the organization.

Read more in MinnPost.

Monday, June 29, 2015

PCA ordered to shut N. Mpls air monitors or justify them to court

A judge has ordered the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to shut down two air monitors that bracket property owned by the Northern Metal scrap yard in north Minneapolis or explain by July 27 why not.

Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann issued his order last Thursday in an action brought by Northern Metals, which alleges that it is unfairly being singled out by the agency as it investigates five instances in which an area monitor recorded air particles over the allowable standard.

Read more in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.