September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Road construction battles

By Susan Steinke- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Surely you've heard the joke that Minnesota has three seasons: summer, winter, and road construction. Everyone probably has a tale to tell about how road construction upset their daily routine, including me.
Last summer, the stretch of Highway 55 on which our farm is located was closed for resurfacing and widening. Residents were given plenty of warning, with multiple open house meetings and hotline phone numbers available for any questions.
As the day of closure drew near, I called the hotline number to inform someone that a large milk truck needed daily access to our driveway. One of the project foremen, Dustin, contacted me and assured me that he would tell his crew and would send me an extra resident pass that would allow our milk truck driver through the road blocks.
I told Dan, our driver, about my conversation and the resident pass. Dan just laughed and said that if a road is closed and he needs to get to a farm, he just goes through. "Don't worry about me," he said.
When the road closed, it was as though our farm had suddenly been transported to the quiet countryside of my dreams. We didn't wake up to the rumble of rush hour traffic. Our kids played outside to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees.
It wasn't all rosy, though. The road crews cut through our buried telephone line and tossed aside our mailbox. The shoulder was torn out in front of our driveway, and the dirt ramp up the six inches to the pavement was tough on the car tires. Once on the road, the path through construction chaos was slow and sometimes treacherous, especially at night.
One evening, two men in orange vests knocked on my door. They needed to replace the culvert at the end of our driveway and wondered if I was going anywhere. I was just leaving, so they said they would dig the driveway one side at a time so that I could get back home.
When I arrived home a few hours later, with Lily and a sleeping baby Tate in the backseat, my entire driveway had a huge crater across it. I stomped over to the crew.
"You told me you were going to dig half at a time." I said.
"I didn't think you were home yet," said one of the orange-vested men who had knocked on my door. "An older gentleman walked out here and told us we could dig the entire thing. I said I thought you were still gone, but he told us to go right ahead."
My nephew, Jack, happened to be staying at my in-laws that week and was watching the crew work from a nearby hill. He shouted to me, "It was Grandpa."
The road crew had already replaced the culvert in our field road entrance a few hundred feet west of our driveway, but they had left it impassable. So, I called Kurt and told him to bring the skid loader. He smoothed out the field road enough that I could drive in with the car. Thank goodness we live on a farm.
Soon, the road was finished and open again. Wait a minute. Before this repaving job, we had about ten feet of a paved approach at the top of our hilly driveway. This approach always melted off in the winter, making it easier for the milk truck (and me) to turn onto the busy highway. And without it in the springtime, going in and out with our heavy machinery would turn the end of our driveway into a muddy ruin. We realized that our neighbors who had approaches before the construction had them repaved, but somehow ours was missed.
My father-in-law called a foreman and was told, too late now. So I called Dustin and insisted that they repave our approach. He called back and said that, according to pictures, we had about two feet of an approach, and if we really insisted, they could come back and replace it.
"Two feet," I said to Kurt. "Didn't they mark it before the culvert crew dug it up?" Kurt thought a moment. "You know, if we dig through the gravel, we can probably uncover some of the tar." We trudged up the driveway with shovels, and sure enough, ten feet back from the road we hit pavement. We cleared off a nice big swath and I called Dustin again. A few days later they finished tarring our new approach. It was worth the fight.
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