St. Louis County Public Works estimates damage caused to roads by flooding this week will cost between $20-25 million, although that number is expected to increase as more extensive damage is discovered.
County workers found that about 670 miles of paved county roads were damaged or submerged, according to traffic engineer Victor Lund. About 760 miles of county gravel roads were also affected.
Many roads are still closed. As of Thursday, 78 county roads closed. On Friday the number is over 100 as water moves into new areas, Lund said.
"Even though the event has passed, the waters are receding in some places and rising in other places," Lund said. "Roads that had no issues at all, now have issues, and roads that had issues, now have no issues."
County workers had already opened up damaged rural roads that left residents landlocked by Wednesday night, which Lund said was the department's first priority.
Special attention is being paid to the integrity of bridges as waters recede.
"Once the water is receded down to where it's safe for inspectors to re-enter these structures, then they have to go out with the inventory of known structures that were affected and perform the inspections," Lund said.
Many driveways were also washed away. The department is now working to help residents reconnect driveways to the county roads, Lund said.
Most smaller projects like the regrading of gravel roads will be done in coming weeks. Roadways where drainage pipes have been washed away should take between one and two months to repair. Larger projects, like replacing and repairing washed away bridges, could take until October.
Lund urged drivers stay off sections of roads that the county has marked with traffic devices like barrels and traffic cones. He says the roadway may have been damaged by water, even though it appears normal.
"Don't assume it's safe to pass,because that barrel or that barricade is there for a reason," Lund said. "Obey the traffic control devices and obviously use caution when you're on the road."
Residents with concerns about county roads can contact St. Louis County Public Works.
Much of the rest of the affected areas in northeast Minnesota are still trying to pin down the extent of the damage. A MnDOT spokesperson estimated the cost of damage to state roads as between $25-$30 million. Duluth Mayor Don Ness said the estimate for damage to all public infrastructure in the city is about $50-$80 million, with probably half of that due to damage to city roads.
Lake County Emergency Management Director BJ Kohlstedt said that about 25 percent of county roads have been affected by washouts and bridge damage. Lake County's estimate for road repair is $1.5 million.
Minnesota has requested preliminary damage assessment teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The request includes damage assessments in 14 Minnesota counties and one tribal government in northeast Minnesota. Those crews are scheduled to visit next week.