Businesses question how Highway 27 project will affect them in 2019

Staff Writer

The question is not if it will have an impact, but how much will it have, Phil Smith said about the 2019 Highway 27 project.

At an open house hosted by the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, he and other business and community leaders asked Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Project Manager Luke Wehseler and Little Falls Public Works Director Greg Kimman questions about the project.

From 15th Street Southwest to Sixth Street West, and from Second Street East to Ninth Street East, the project will be a simple resurfacing of the highway’s pavement.

Between those two sections, the city and MnDOT are doing a complete reconstruction, including utility work, from Sixth Street West to Second Street East.

Part of this will be installing fire suppression lines in properties along the highway, Kimman said. Once the project gets closer, the city will discuss this with the property owners to determine where the lines come into each property.

MnDOT will attempt to keep the Highway 27 bridge open so local traffic, including delivery trucks for businesses, can take Paul Larson Drive onto the bridge, cross it, then get onto Front Street and move around the east side of town from there, Wehseler said.

Out of town traffic would go around the city on Highway 10 to get from east to west.

Once utility reconstruction crews are done with one side of town, they’ll move over to the other side to get it done sooner rather than waiting for resurfacing of the road they worked.

“Hopefully they’ll be all done by September when the craft fair comes to town,” Wehseler said.

While crews will be assembled and preliminary work done in January, actual roadwork will begin in mid-April.

“We’re going to start as soon as possible,” Wehseler said.

Kimman said both the city and MnDOT are working to minimize impact on businesses.

Bernie Jeub, president of the Boys and Girls Club said he was concerned about the ability to cross Broadway on the west side of town from north to south and vice-versa.

Kimman said major crossings such as Lindbergh Drive and Eighth Street West would be opened as soon as possible, while less busy crossings would be held off for later.

Smith, who helps run the New 2 You Thrift Store in west Little Falls, said they would work to build a reserve to deal with any negative impacts from the project.

“I know we’re going to take a hit,” Smith said.

Kathy Kahlhamer of Habitat for Humanity asked if there were any plans for early completion incentives for contractors.

Wehseler said that was an ongoing discussion at MnDOT and is dependent on funding for the project.

Property owners can expect letters from MnDOT if they will be impacted by the right of way for the highway.

MnDOT will make the sidewalk level with the entrances of businesses to make sure it is compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Anyone looking for more information about the project can visit MnDOT’s project site at