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2024 ACEC/MN Engineering Excellence Awards

Isthmus Engineering along with project partner, SEH®, and client, MnDOT District 4, were recognized with an Honor Award for the Highway 87 Complete Streets, Frazee project at the ACEC/MN Engineering Excellence Awards Gala on Friday, February 23, 2024. The Engineering Excellence Awards are awarded annually for outstanding engineering projects led by its member firms. Projects are judged for their uniqueness and innovation; future value to the public and industry; and social, economic, and sustainability benefits, as well as complexity and overall achievement of client goals.

Innovation, quality, and strong partnership came together to deliver this project along Highway 87 which runs northeast from U.S. Highway 10 through the community of Frazee in northwest Minnesota. The consultant team of Isthmus and SEH worked collaboratively with MnDOT District 4 and the City of Frazee to provide reconstruction and preservation of the aging roadway surface with a Complete Streets approach that included improvements in safety, multimodal connectivity, ADA accessibility, and drainage.

The causeway over Town Lake serves as a gateway entrance to Frazee and connects the rural and urban portions of the roadway. In addition to stabilizing the causeway with geogrid, new sidewalks and a shared-use path were constructed to connect the community’s non-motorized users to the future Heartland Trail and the local Lion’s Park.

The complexity of the residential portion of the corridor with constrained right-of-way and numerous driveway access points, required creative solutions, detailed modeling, and thoughtful communication with property owners. This residential retaining wall was relocated due to encroachment into MnDOT ROW and beautifully reconstructed to the satisfaction of the property owner. The innovative use of 3D modeling and immersive visualization allowed the project team to effectively engage with the public.

The railroad crossing just west of downtown required careful coordination with the City Council, BNSF railroad, and local businesses. Here again, the visualization exhibits provided stakeholders with a realistic 3D view of how the crossing features would function and improve safety. The installation of warning signs and a pedestrian maze allowed the City to realize its goal of a Quiet Zone crossing after construction was completed.

Safety was also improved at Frazee Senior High School with the installation of new pedestrian crosswalks with RRFBs. This still-frame from one of the visualization videos at the top compared to an actual photo of the crossings after construction offers a glimpse at how accurately the project team was able to tie the proposed design to the existing features along the corridor. It demonstrates how realistic and useful the exhibits were in engaging with stakeholders and the community.

This project also took a unique, forward-thinking approach to stormwater treatment. The team recognized the greater benefit to water quality of treating the heavier-polluted urban corridor versus the rural corridor. Treatment credits were traded from a rural project to the urban project resulting in a more cost-effective solution with better environmental benefits. In addition to the economic benefits, two of the basins were constructed next to Frazee Senior High School and will be maintained by students as part of a hands-on environmental learning opportunity.

The bridge replacement at the east end of the project limits provided additional safety benefits. The aged triple-barrel box culvert was replaced with a single-span bridge. The widened roadway shoulders, new turn lanes, and profile geometrics allow better sight lines for westbound traffic as it approaches the busy Frazee Senior High School pedestrian crossings.

The completed Highway 87 Complete Streets project in Frazee was delivered on time and accommodated an expansion of scope that added a .53-mile section of mill and overlay. The overall project enhanced the community and has made the corridor more welcoming, safe, and accessible.