Minnesota’s Northwest Angle

October 12, 2016 at 11:58 am | Posted in Highway Phototours | Leave a comment
Tags:

The little notch of  Minnesota that sticks up into Canada has a fairly interesting history. Although now almost lost in obscurity, it used to be an economic center of the fur trade. French voyageurs would canoe up the Rainy River to Fort St. Charles on Lake of the Woods.

With the French & Indian War, the area passed from French to British control, and with the American Revolution, it became necessary to draw a boundary between the two countries in the area. Since the voyageurs route was so important, it was agreed that the international boundary  would follow that route, up to the northwesternmost point of Lake of the Woods.

From there, the boundary was to proceed westward until the Mississippi River, which people thought had it’s source at Lake Winnepeg, or at least somewhere northwest of Lake of the Woods.. You can see the obvious problem here. Later, when the source of the Mississippi became known, the boundary was dropped down to the 49th Parallel to match up with the previous agreed on line between the Louisiana Purchase and Canada. The result was the little notch of Minnesota we call the Northwest Angle.

After the fur trade passed into history, the angle faded into obscurity. Most of the economy today is based on the few resorts and vacation properities along the lake. Most of the area inland is either state forest land, or is owned by the Red Lake Indians, who are not at all friendly to outsiders. The two newsworthy things recently were people selling property as potential Y2K hideouts, and the draconian fishing regulations Ontario imposed on people staying at Minnesota resorts, which prompted talk about the angle joining Canada.

These pictures were taken  on a trip a quarter century ago when I was in high school, so they’re by far the oldest pictures on this site.

Road To Northwest Angle

This is a view from the road to the angle on the Canadian side, Manitoba highway 308. Note the lack of shoulder striping. Mn/DOT is authorized under statute 161.141 to help fund and maintiain this a highway to the angle. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the road was completed. Conventional telephone service arrived even later, in the 1990s.

angle02

I believe this picture was taken across the border in Minnesota, where the road becomes County 49. The road is now gravel. This is pretty typical scenery for the north central part of the state: flat, poorly drained, dominated by spruce and birch trees. At various times commercial harvest of the peat underlying much of north-central Minnesota has been considered, but was stopped for economic or environmental reasons.

angle03

Driving into the angle, you eventually come to what I call the crossroads. Going east takes you to a few resorts. Going west takes you to the town of Angle Inlet. Going straight leads you to the lake, shown here. In the winter there is a 50 mile ice road to Kenora, Ontario. The reason we took this road was because my map said the town was down here, and we got stuck good going back (It took us a good 45 minutes to get free; in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is not the kind of place were you can call AAA and have a tow truck in a few minutes). I won’t mention any names, but this map company makes a well know line of topographic atlases and is based in Maine.

angle04

This is the farthest north post office in the lower 48 states, zip code 56711

angle05

This is the last one room school still functioning in Minnesota. For a few years ago it was closed, requiring the children to endure a very long bus ride to Warroad, but it is now open again.The teacher has been here for 30 years.

angle06

The only church I saw on the Northwest Angle. I guess that you’re out of luck if you’re picky about denomination

angle07

Leaving the angle this is the last sign before the border. All that marks the border is a sign telling you to report to the customs station in Middlebro, presumably only if you want to stay in Canada. Although at the time I went there were no official customs stations, they now they now have videophones at various locations for travelers to check in.

Back to North Star Highways Home

Rushing Rapids Parkway Scenic Byway Phototour

October 11, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Highway Phototours | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

Located just south of Duluth, the Rushing Rapids Parkway is an ideal trip from the Twin Cities. It’s close enough that you can get there and back in a day easy, and there are plenty of services around, making it  logistically a lot simpler than exploring some of the more remote byways. And unlike the ho-hum scenery on some of the closer byways, it’s scenic enough to merit a trip.


The Signs

The markers along the byway are typical of the newer designs for Minnesota’s scenic byway markers: A colorful, stylistic representation of a major feature or typical scenery found along the road. In this case it is a depiction of the river, colored brown because of the acids from the trees, and the swinging bridge crossing the gorge. The sign itself is made from a very glossy material; to photograph it  I had to use a polarizing filter to eliminate reflections from nearby trees.

rrp01b


Town of Carlton

The Byway begins in the town of Carlton. In the early days of motoring the town was an important crossroads; where the roads from Moorhead and Minneapolis converged on the way to Duluth and the North Shore. After the dawn of the interstates, the town endured some hard times before the growth of tourism to the nearby park and whitewater raft tours. Although the buildings and the watertower in this picture could be straight out of the fifties, note that the streets have recently been rebuilt.

rrp02


The Dam

As long as there’s been human habition, there’s been attempts to harness, and in some cases exploit the natural resources. In the early years, the St. Louis River Water Power Company built this dam to generate electricity. Ironically this was the factor that led to the preservation of much of the surrounding area. The company bought up most of the surrounding land, and then donated it to state in 1915 for a park. The park was named Jay Cooke after the easterner involved in financing the dam and an adjacent railroad, and who suggested the donation.


St Louis River Bridge

Where the byway crosses the river there is this old iron bridge, no doubt original to the road. There is a pedestrian walkway right underneath the bridge, giving roadgeeks a chance to see the substructure of a bridge close-up, as well as exploring the surrounding beautiful scenery. The road was built in the 1920s to provide access to the park, and despite it’s trunk highway status was always more of a parkway as opposed to a major thoroughfare; highway 61 a few miles to the north handling that role.

rrp03


Rushing Rapids

There aren’t that many locations where you can see the rapids from the parkway, due to the trees and the difference in elevation. Notice the water through the trees on the right. The road is narrow and curvy with no shoulders, but there are periodic wide gravel spots as you can see on the left., obviously meant for brief stops or turning around.

rrp05


Jay Cooke State Park

The main visitor’s area of Jay Cooke State Park is of course an essential stop when touring the byway. The St. Louis River bisects the park. Most of the visitor facilites are on the north side, while the south side is wild and undeveloped. Connecting the two sides is the suspension bridge, depicted on the signs.

The original bridge was built in the 1920s, then replaced in the 1930s when the CCC was stationed in the park. In the early 1950s a flood destroyed everything but the towers. The bridge was soon rebuilt, and later concrete caps were added to stabilize the towers. When walking across, see if you can resist the temptation to stomp on it and make the bridge bounce up and down. Most people can’t…

Most people just get out of their car, walk across the bridge, and maybe take a few pictures of the rapids. For those that want to see more of the park, there is the Grand Portage trail followed by early explorers portaging around the rapids, some backpacking campsites, a pioneer cemetary, and a portion of the Munger Trail- a paved bicycle trail that will eventually connect Duluth to the Twin Cities.

2016 Update: In 2012 the swing bridge was destroyed by floods once again. It reopened in 2013, restored to it’s original appearance without the concrete caps on the piers and with cedar hand rails. The road to the east was also destroyed and is still being rebuilt.


Autumn in the North

Although I had hoped to take this trip during the peak of the fall color season, I was off by a few weeks as you can see. Besides the maples and sumac, not much else has turned. Still, seeing a few color highlites in a sea of green had a charm of it’s own.

The character of autumn varies greatly in different parts of Minnesota. In the southern  parts you get a literal kalaidasope of colors, with crimsom maples, fiery sumac, and all sorts of yellows and browns. In the north it’s mostly the yellows of the birch and underbrush combined with the green backdrop of the evergreens. Although this area is geologically part of the north, it is just barely, so you see a few maples and other southern trees here and there.

rrp08


Byways End

The byway and MN 210 come to an end at this unusual intersection with MN23. Three scenic byways converge here; MN 23 is the Veterans Evergreen Memorial Drive, and Skyline Parkway begins just a few miles ahead.

rrp09

Back to North Star Highways Home

 

Avenue of Pines Scenic Byway Phototour

October 10, 2016 at 6:42 pm | Posted in Highway Phototours | Leave a comment

Not as well promoted as it’s neighbor the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway, the Avenue of Pines is still worth a drive. Named after the red pines that were planted along the roadway in the 1930s, the byway follows MN 46 it’s entire length. There is a story going around that the road was given that number because it’s forty six miles long. Although it’s probably apocryphal, there may be some truth to it since in the 1933 renumbering plan, 46 was originally meant for a highway along the western edge of the Twin Cities (The now defunct initial highway 101 west of Lake Minnetonka). So let’s jump several hours and a world away to the town of Deer River…


The Byway Begins

The Avenue of Pines officially starts along with MN 46 at this intersection on the outskirts of Deer River. There is absolutely no clue the byway starts here, unlike the nearby Great River Road which is marked with precision. Just off to the right of the photo is a major casino. I can’t help but wonder what the people watching the security cameras thought of me taking this picture.

avepines01a


Entering the Forest

Although both termini are outside the Chippewa National Forest, most of the byway is inside it. Here is a  view of the entrance point. Note the National Forest sign on the right, and the monument sign in the distance on the left.

avepines02


The Pines

Here we see the byways namesake, the Norway (or red) pines, the state tree of Minnesota. Despite the look of having been here a long time, they are only about 70 years old. It wasn’t too long after the last of the northern forest was cleared in the early 1900s that the realization came that such wanton exploitation wasn’t a good thing, and modern forestry practices were instituted. As part of that change in ideology, the National Forest system was established, and these pines were planted to try and speed along natural regrowth.

It’s only human to try to assign personality to the wilderness. It can seem both malevelent, as when you’re momentarily lost or alone in your tent at night, or benevolent, as listing to the wind whisper through the pines or a loon calling on a lake in the morning while at you’re friend’s cabin. Here you can see both majestic and sinister characteristics, the darkness (exagerated by the camera) in the trees that go on for a scores of miles  and their soaring height. In reality the wilderness is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. Go in, have fun, but be prepared.

avepines03


Lake Winne

Despite running through Minnesota’s lake country for most of it’s length, there are very few places where you can actually see water from the byway. This is the most notable one, where the byway crosses a narrow channel Lake Winnibigoshish at a narrow point. Lake Winnibigoshish, known as Lake Winnie, is one of Minnesota’s premier walleye lakes. The name comes from the Chippewa Indians and means “miserable-wretched-dirty-water”, from the fact that the lake is shallow and muddy.

avepines04


Sidetrip: The Lost 40

The Lost Forty is a worthwhile side trip, about 12 miles off the byway on county roads. Because of a surveying error, Coddington Lake was mapped as being a 1/2 mile north of where it really is. In Minnesota, all lakes are public property so the land didn’t officially belong to anyone, and thus no one cut the old-growth trees. They stand today as one of the only places you can see the Minnesota forest as it once was. (Itasca and Scenic state parks are two others.) Before the late 1800s about 1/3rd of the northern forest was old-growth trees; now it’s a tiny fraction of a percent.


The Wilderness Regrows

Just outside of the national forest, you can see dramatically how a forest changes after being cleared either by fire or logging. The first tree species to spring up are fast-growing “weed” trees like aspen and birch. In the long term, however, the evergreens come back. Evergreen trees have the long-term advantage in northeastern Minnesota because the soil is very acidic, which evergreens thrive on but most other plants don’t like. Also the harsh climate favors trees that can produce food year round and effectively shed snow.

In the picture, the bright green canopy are aspen and birch trees, but notice how many of the smaller trees are darker evergreens. Eventually the deciduous trees will die off, leaving the evergreens the primary species. If left alone, in another 100 years or so it’ll look like nothing ever happened here.

avepines06


Entering Northome

As you enter Northome, this gigantic black bear greets you. Bear hunting is a sport in Minnesota, though not at the same level as deer or pheasant hunting. A lot of newbie campers are terrified at the thought of being around bears, but the danger they pose is greatly exagerated as black bears tend to run away from people. There have been only four bear attacks in recorded history, two by Lake Mille Lacs in 2002, and two in the Boundary Waters Canoe area in 1987.

The second photo shows the intersection with MN 1 at the edge of downtown Northome. Both the Mn/DOT route log and the Legislative Route description seem to imply that MN 46 actually ends here, but the signs in the field clearly show a multiplex to US 71 at the other end of town. Also note the nonstandard directional sign, not uncommon in more rural areas of the state.

ave-pines-r02

avepines07b


The Byway Ends

At the far end of Northome, the Avenue of Pines along with MN 46 comes to an end at this unremarkable intersection. The nearest large town, Bemidji, is over fifty miles away going south on US 71, while the Canadian border is to the north on MN 72, arguable the most remote highway in the state. Eighty miles long, it passes through only one incorporated town between it’s termini.

ave-pines-r01

Back to North Star Highways Home

Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway Phototour

October 9, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Highway Phototours | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

First Published Fall, 2001

MN 38 was authorized by the legislature in 1933, and runs from Grand Rapids, in the middle of a resort and logging area, to a sparsely settled area miles north of town. For most of it’s history it served primarily as a logging road. Although it is still used as such, with the growth of tourism in Minnesota it is now serving as a tourist attraction because of it’s scenic beauty (and being the home of Judy Garland.)

A number of years ago, MN 38 was designated the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway, It was one of the first scenic byways designated in Minnesota, and the only one reckognized by all three of the state and national byways council and the national forest service. It is also one of the most promoted, At shelters at major entrances you can pick up a brochure listing information corresponding to numbered turnoffs along the route.


Mile 0: The Byway Begins:

Minnesota Route 38 and the byway begin at US 2 in Grand Rapids. Although you can’t see it, I’m standing in the parking lot of Blandin Paper, the town’s largest employer. Judy Garland grey up here, and the school she attended is now a museum and cultural center. Grand Rapids also marks the start of the Mesaba Iron Range, which supplied much of the steel to the US starting in the late 1800s and through both world wars.

The second photo is a closeup of first northbound reassurance shields for MN 38 and the byway in Grand Rapids. Signs that have been colored in, similar to the monument sign, are shown on official documents, so I think that they will eventually be installed on the road itself.

Note the motif of the eagle and evergreen trees, a theme repeated on other scenic byway highway markers. Both have become somewhat iconic of the state. Spotting eagles isn’t an everyday occurance, but if you live here long enough and travel, you’ll see a few of them. Evergreen trees are of course extremely common, although they’re only native to the northeast and virtually all of the old growth is gone. One of the best remaining old growth stands is in Scenic State Park, only a few miles from the byway.


Mile 3: Leaving Town

MN 38 passes by this lake on the north side of Grand Rapids.

edgewild03


Mile 13: Chippewa National Forest

About 10 miles north of town, the byway enters Chippewa National Forest. Years ago the Chippewa Indians moved into this region from the eastern part of the continent, in the process driving the  Sioux out of the forests into the prairie.Eventually the boundary became near what is now I-94.

edgewild04


Sidetrip: Camping in the Wilderness

By this time on my trip I had been driving all day from the cities (you can see how it’s getting dark in the previous pictures), and it was time to pull into camp for the night. This was at a State Forest campground. State and Forest campgrounds are typically just a gravel drive and a pair of latrines, but they’re inexpensive and usually in very attractive settings.

I’ve been camping about two dozen times, everywhere from among 20,000 people at Cornerstone Music Festival in the mud and heat of downstate Illinois over the fourth, to having to scrape ice off my tent during a backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail, to canoeing in both the BWCA and Quetico. I’ve tried camping alone a few times, this being the first.

As much as I like to think of myself as an outdoors person, I can’t say I really like the experience. It’s OK with friends in remote areas, or at Cornerstone, but if a motel is an option I’d rather do that. If the goal is to save a few bucks, camping is simply not worth the hassle. As it turns out here I I brought all sorts of food along I planned to cook for breakfast, but never could get a fire going and drove back to the McDonalds in Grand Rapids.

2016 Update: And 15 years later Cornerstone Festival is done, I travel with my sister who has zero interest in camping, have more money, and I’m not as young as I once was, so I’ve camped for the last time


Mile 23: Laurentian Divide

Besides the major continental divide in the west, there are an number of smaller ones. This hill marks the Laurentian divide. Water to the left flows to the Gulf of Mexico, and water to the right flows to Hudson Bay. In many places along the byway, including here, there are pullouts or waysides at points of interest.


Mile 30: Rolling Road

One of the straighter sections, but indicative of the many little dips along the road.

The forest of birch and young pines is very typical for northeastern Minnesota. Originally northeastern Minnesota was covered with towering red and white pines, but around the turn of the century loggers cleared virtually every last one. Farmers moved in and attempted to make a living, but the acidic soil which is good at growing coniferous trees is terrible at growing crops, and the farms were abandoned.

“Weed” trees like birch and aspen grew up, and are slowly being replaced by white pine and spruce. Red pines, however, need fire to grow, and since fires are still artificially supressed they haven’t made a comeback.

edgewild07


Mile 39: Bigfork

Bigfork, population 469, is the only incorporated town along the byway.  Like the rest of the area, it got it’s start and still primarily functions as a base for logging, but is trying to diversify into tourism. Not the fieldstone accents on the bridge, to match fieldstone accents on other structures along the byway.

edgewild9a


Sidetrip: Scenic State Park

Bigfork is the turnoff to visit Scenic State Park. The 3,000 acre park, which was originally to be called Sandwick Lake, was created in 1921 out of land that was predominantly state-owned. The park contains one of the few remnants of old growth forest remaining in the state.

Scenic is one of the best units in the state park system. It’s large and unique enough to be worthy of a state park (unlike Monson Lake), not overcrowded (unlike Interstate), and has worthwhile scenery (unlike William O’brien).  It’s going to stay serene and seculded too, as most of the land surrounding the park is also owned by the state and federal governments, and the distance precludes day trips from the metro.

edgewild9b


Mile 47: The Byway Ends

This whimsical scupture in the town of Effie, made of a culvert and rebar, pays homage to the unnofficial Minnesota state bird, the mosquito. If you must know, yes they’re bad up here, but like Seattle’s rain or Florida’s humidity, they’re just something that you get used to that comes with the territory.

The second photo shows the ending of the byway; the mosquito is in a park off to the left. This photo, taken just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks is a personal favorite of mine. Showing flags flying even in this remote corner of the country, it somehow captures the essence of America.

Back to North Star Highways Home

US Highway 14: New Ulm To Rochester Phototour (Summer 2015)

September 23, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Highway Phototours | Leave a comment
Tags:

 

Originally there were multiple east-west routes across Minnesota, one just about as good as the other. In fact, as part of a post-war, pre-interstate plan to upgrade some of the nation’s major traffic routes, US 212 was slated to be upgraded to an expressway (the short, substandard US 61 expressway at Esko and the old US 52 expressway west of St Cloud are legacies of that). But when it came time for the interstates, focus zeroed in on the US 52 and US 16 corridors and the others were left unimproved.It wasn’t until the 1970s that the first improvements were made to US 14, a freeway bypass on the north side of Mankato, and a short expressway west of Rochester, and things have been happening in fits and starts since then. US 14 is one of the most dangerous roads in the state, and improvements are driven more by the desire for safety and linking the towns into our expressway network to ease and speed up long distance travel than traffic volumes. Most of it is under the 10,000 vehicles a day threshold where you normally consider four lanes. There is an active association promoting the completion of four lanes from New Ulm to Rochester. The ultimate vision is a freeway east of Mankato and an expressway west of Mankato.One wonders if it would have been better to have built I-90 where US 14 currently is; closer to Winona and Rochester and through Mankato. Of course, if that happened, we would now be addressing the same problems along US 16….

Here’s a map with the status of the improvements: Green: Freeway Complete, Red: Expressway Complete:, Yellow: Expressway Under Construction

us-14-01

US 14 status, summer 2015

The following is a compilation of two trips, one down to New Ulm and Owatonna to check out the new construction, and the other from Owatonna to Rochester.


US 14 New Ulm Entrance Sign

The journey starts at the western city limits of New Ulm. MnDOT considered the concept of a bypass around the northwestern corner of the city, but it was dropped as “inconsistent with local traffic patterns;” most of the traffic was actually going to and from New Ulm.

Menards Sign, New Ulm, MN

Shortly after the sign is the “big box” zone, with a Menards and Walmart. My impression is downtown is still doing reasonably well; having big box here probably attracts the people that would instead drive to big boxes in Mankato to shop, so the dollars are kept in-town and a lot of driving is prevented.


US 14 and the New Ulm Walmart

US 14 and the New Ulm Walmart

 


US 14 on the west side of New Ulm

Here’s US 14 on the west side of town. This was rebuilt recently, but traffic volumes are over 20,000, making a three lane conversion unworkable.The street lights look European, but they’re actually a Holophane product called the Mongoose. Holophane was more noted for making all kinds of glass optics than complete street light assemblies. As you can see by the sign, US 14 takes a turn to the north here, going across the Minnesota River.

us-14-06

A nice “Minnesota River Valley” scenic byway sign. I really like the Minnesota Scenic Byway markers, which are unique to each byway and often multiple colors. And Minnesota highway markers are one of my favorites. The first ones were a gold star, then a white star, then a white square. The current design dates from the 1960s and was changed because the white squares looked too much like a speed limit sign; the letters were originally gold. Unfortunately the gold fades; some sign people would like to give up and just change it to white. Only Minnesota and Colorado use three colored designs.

Traffic Signal on US 14 in New Ulm

New Ulm was one of the first areas to get LED traffic signals and pedestrian countdown signals. This very early design had letters a single LED width numbers and outline symbols, neither of which are still allowed.

 

Traffic Signal in New Ulm

Some early designs had the hand/man and the numbers as separate modules. This one the hand/man side was already replaced with exposed but filled symbols, and needs it again.

New Ulm Holophane Street Light

Here’s a street light in New Ulm. This is a Holophane product (which seem to be a lot more common outside the metro in southern and central Minnesota).

New Ulm Lanterns

These are very non-dark sky compliant lights. And I think such non-cutoff lighting can even be desirable in a business district, where the up-glow lights up the façade of the building).

The Old New Ulm River Bridge

The New Ulm River Bridge

Old New Ulm River Bridge

The bridge that replacement bridge will also be two lanes. MnDOT originally proposed a four lane bridge, but the instead it will be two lanes, with the money saved going to build an interchange north of the river where State Highway 15 splits off. Present and forecast traffic counts don’t justify four lanes, and much of the traffic bound for town exits at County Road 37. The one concession to MnDOT is it will be expandable to four lanes if and when traffic volumes warrant.

New Ulm North Intersection

The intersection north of the bridge.


Speed Limit 55 Extra Enforcement Sign

A reminder US 14 is a dangerous road

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Highway Sign

On a LIghter Note

Old US Highway 13 in Courtland

Courtland, Nicollet, and much farther along, Byron, are the three towns remaining on US 14. Since New Ulm to Mankato was envisioned as an expressway rather than full freeway, through town options were considered.

Courtland Water Tower and Plaque

Courtland Water Tower and Plaque

Courtland Water Tower

Courtland Water Tower

Old US 14 Near Courtland

Driving through Courtland and Nicollet isn’t nearly as slow and tedious as driving through Waseca is, but the towns wanted bypasses, so they’re getting them. The following photo shows a view approaching Nicollet. This was actually an early bypass that got engulfed by the town, and it will be obliterated and returned to farmland when the new bypass is built.

US 14 New Construction

The Future New Lanes east of Nicollet.

US 14 near Mankato

Interim safety improvements from Nicollet to Mankato consist of a wider center strip with pylons and rumble strips.

US 14 and County 6 Interchange, Mankato

This is the beginning of the freeway segment around Mankato at a new interchange at County 6.

US 14 Minnesota River Bridge Approach

Here is the approach to the Minnesota River Bridge

The US 14 Minnesota River Bridge at New Ulm

The US 14 Minnesota River Bridge at Mankato

For many years the freeway ended at MN 22, and traffic was forced to exit. The expressway was extended to near Janesville in the 1990s . Already there’s regrets about building this as an expressway rather than a freeway; long term plans are to convert it to one; some minor intersection improvements are currently happening.

US 14 Ramp Closed When Flashing Sign

US 14 closes occasionally in the winter, facilitated by permanent gates and signs.

US 14 Interchange East of Mankato at County 12

A new interchange was built just east of State Highway 22 to serve a Wal-Mart distribution center. Besides safety, part of the motivation for the new freeway is to encourage commerce (I get the impression truckers really do not like two-lane roads). This is also part of the motivation for 4-laning US 20 across Iowa.

US 14 Detour Sign

Old US 14 is being redone, and I found this detour sign kind of odd.

At Waseca, it’s unfortunate that the big box and fast food strip is now on the “wrong” side of town; it’s all north of town along MN 13, rather than by the freeway exits. There’s not even a gasoline station for travelers.  I know some people here don’t share my love of highway oriented commercial, but having it nowhere near the highway has to be the worst possible scenario. My prediction is eventually the highway oriented commercial will move south, leaving vacant buildings on the north side.

us-14-28

Waseca Layout Map

I’m also not a fan of how excessively long the new freeway is, rather than cutting a diagonal. This is probably done to avoid splitting farms, but it’s likely the land on the city side of the bypass will be developed eventually, and you’ve now inconvenienced 10,000 people a day forever. I’d like to see a “buy the farm” law, where MnDOT would be able to buy out an entire farm if the owners wanted to sell rather than have their farm split. Or if the owners wanted to keep farming, MnDOT could build a cattle pass, like the one being built on the St. Croix Crossing approach road, where the angle necessitated splitting a farm in Wisconsin.

us-14-29

The Waseca corridor eastward to Owatonna was completed after they decided the goal was a controlled access facility with adequate funding, so it’s a freeway. This is the view approaching Owatonna. The original plans were to have the interchange with I-35 be a diamond, but they found funding to make it a cloverleaf at the last minute

Black and Yellow Trail Sign

On either side of I-35 are these neat signs. Before and in the early days of numbered highways, the “auto trails” would have names, usually promoted by an association

us-14-30

Here’s the formal registration for the Black and Yellow Trail.

The Yellow Stone Trail (US 14) and the King of Trails (US 75) have also been officially revived. US 218 runs concurrent with the US 14, although the eastbound signs say “To” and westbound there is an “End US 218” sign well in advance of I-35.

The four lane expressway south of town has been around a long time (and was instrumental in decommissioning Kaplan Woods State Park due to having new freeways on two sides of it). Formerly the four lane expressway ended short of US 218, this was improved in the early 2000s.us-14-31

The current project extends the expressway a few miles west, shown in red.  Although the goal is a freeway, they are not building an interchange east of town at this time. A “Reduced Conflict Intersection” was greeted with the usual scorn by locals, so they’re building an at-grade intersection for now. Most of the new freeway is going to be on new alignment next to the railroad tracks, this actually causes the least disruption since private houses and accesses on both sides of the existing US 14 can remain.

US 14 Construction at Owatonna

Four Lanes Under Construction

us-14-33

Now we’re back to two lanes. The haze is from the western wildfires.

us-14-34

This is one of only two signals, both of which are at Byron. Every single “Don’t Walk” light was burned out. They were burned out when I was here last year, and were in 2007 judging by Google Street View. And one of the pedestrian buttons was broken. Don’t think they get too many pedestrians here. I reported the issues to Mn/DOT and have been told they’ve been fixed.

us-14-35

Among the unexpected sights I found was this defunct mini-golf course.

US 14 at Rochester

Approaching US 52. It’s hard to see, but an extension of the Douglas State Trail crosses just before the highway bridge. Although the road continues to downtown Rochester, the US 14 designation turns and follow the bypass, as did I.

Back to North Star Highways Home

 

Powered by WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.