By Emily Bialkowski
The Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that Highway 44 construction is on schedule “for the most part.”
The most drastic of obstacles, box culvert replacement, is complete, so drivers only had to deal with a detour for a short time.
According to Kristin Kammueller, public affairs coordinator for the DOT, workers are currently focusing on the eastbound lanes within Caledonia.
“The contractor lost about two days due to the rain,” she said.
In addition to being on time, construction has not overwhelmed local law enforcement.
Caledonia Police Chief Kurt Zehnder said he is quite pleased with the lack of problems a project of this magnitude has presented.
“I would say at this point it’s gone really well. Most people have been really cautious,” he said. “There have been a few little incidents but nothing that has resulted in an accident. Overall I’m very pleased with how traffic has flowed there.”
Meanwhile, businesses along the route are doing their best to weather the inconvenience and are looking forward to the project’s completion.
Bonnie Laumb of Caledonia Lumber Co. said the road will be 100 percent better when done. “This is a much needed project out here. It was getting harder to get in and out of the access roads,” she said, adding that the turmoil hasn’t hurt her bottom line.
“We don’t feel it has hurt our business any yet. Traffic is coming as normal. They do have a harder time getting in and out, but that is to be expected with the new road going in,” Laumb said.
She said she also believes that the lack of problems has something to do with the fact that everyone knew the project was coming. “If you need something you’re going to come in and buy it whether the traffic is busy or not.”
Dave Jandt, Redwood Cafe owner, echoed Laumb’s sentiments, saying the project has gone really well.
“Our business here has actually been normal. It surprises me, but we’ve been just as busy as we normally are through the summer,” Jandt said, adding that crews have done an excellent job of keeping the intersection open.
Jandt also attributes his positive experience to his customer base. “I’d like to thank all my customers that are coming out in the construction. I appreciate that,” he said.
Once complete Jandt said he thinks the road might be more attractive to motorcyclists. “People have talked about the road being so rough. Motorcyclists mention the cracks in road… It has been a dangerous highway,” he said.
The DOT predicts an October completion date, and Zehnder would like all motorists to keep safety in mind as they navigate the roadway.
“Slow down, use due caution, wear your seatbelt and drive safe,” Zehnder said.
Contact Emily Bialkowski at [email protected]