Ahead of schedule

Intersection of U.S. 41 and Baldwin Avenue reopens following rail replacement

The intersection of South Baldwin Avenue and U.S. 41 was blocked off for nearly a week to replace the railroad crossing near the intersection as part of a Michigan Department of Transportation Rail Safety project. The project, which was completed ahead of schedule officials say, wrapped up Friday. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — A portion of South Baldwin Avenue adjacent to U.S. 41 in the city of Negaunee was reopened to drivers Friday as C&N Railroad finished upgrades to the railroad crossing near the busy intersection.

Negaunee City Manager Nate Heffron said the Michigan Department of Transportation Rail Safety project to replace a section of railroad track, which started on Monday, was expected to take two weeks, but was completed ahead of schedule.

“The engineering firm fully expects that the road will be reopened to traffic by the end of the day on Friday,” Heffron said. “But the paving of that section of the street will not happen until the end of September into October.”

The timeline is the result of the city, the contractor and MDOT working to save money by completing several paving projects at once, he said. On Thursday, MDOT awarded the bid for the overall paving project, which will be funded in part by a $375,000 Small Urban Grant program for street reconstruction work on both Brown Avenue, where a 1,400-foot section of sewer main was replaced this year; and Peck Street, where the city replaced 430 feet of water main; mill and overlay projects on South Healy Avenue from County Road 480 to Main Street; the corner of Division and Rail streets; and roughly a block of Kanter Street near Peck Street.

The city’s match for the overall paving project is $75,000.

“The projects started out as, what streets can we get paved this year,” Heffron said. “And was followed by, what is underneath those streets, and how can we address that? The water project on Peck Street was ultimately done to save money, because there is no point to paving a street and then having to tear it up a couple of years later because you are having problems with the infrastructure.”

The $588,000 Brown Avenue sewer project, a portion of which was paid for with a $100,000 Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development grant, was an emergency situation.

“In my opinion, that was a big deal because that (infrastructure on Brown Avenue) is one of the main sewer collectors,” Heffron said, “and if that would have failed more than 50% of the city may have had a sewer emergency.”

He said the city will also replace streetlights on the portions of Peck Street and Brown Avenue that are being paved with units that are more energy efficient.

“This is all being done as part of our Moving Forward economic development strategy,” he said. “We are investing in our infrastructure, not only for our economy but also for the residents of our community and visitors to our community.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.