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Leaders break ground for Belknap

Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen capped off his years in office Monday by breaking ground for the $23 million U.S. Highway 2, Belknap Street, reconstruction project.

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Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen, left, gets a hug from Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary and former Superior Mayor, Dave Ross, during the Belknap Street Reconstruction Groundbreaking ceremony on Monday morning. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen capped off his years in office Monday by breaking ground for the $23 million U.S. Highway 2, Belknap Street, reconstruction project.

"The takeaway here and for all future endeavors is that the words 'I,' 'me' have no place in success," Hagen said after listing off many of the partners who helped put the street project on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's short list. "They do have everything to do with failure. Relationships are everything, and without them, there is nothing."

The project was initially slated for 2040, according to Dave Minor, CEO and president of the Chamber of Superior-Douglas County.

Hagen had other plans. He started by borrowing the worst vehicle he could find from the city's Public Works Department - "no brakes, no shocks, no springs' - and driving former Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb along Belknap Street. That opened the door for Superior to create the Belknap Street Initiation Committee. Within two months, the group put together a justification for the project that impressed the state and added it on the next funding cycle.

"It happened with a lot of talented people right here in Superior, Wisconsin, as well as people in the area who supported us," Hagen said, including the former mayors of Washburn, Bayfield, Duluth and Cloquet, who wrote letters supporting the project.

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Current Transportation Secretary and former Superior Mayor Dave Ross agreed.

"It's all about partnerships," he said.

But he pointed out Hagen's key role in securing the process.

"We couldn't get this project done, but it took this guy right here to come in and shake things up in Madison," Ross said.

When Gottlieb told Ross at a cabinet meeting the Belknap Street project got the green light, "I almost jumped out of my seat because we've put up with a substandard road here for a very, very, very long time.

"And I can't be more thrilled to see this project take place."

Ross said he has been a Hagen fan since he was a boy.

"When he became mayor at 27, something like that, he transformed Superior and did a great job," Ross said. "I can't think of a greater privilege that to stand here with you, Bruce, at this time."

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The two-year Belknap Street reconstruction project will replace 1.4 miles of roadway, upgrade the storm sewer system and, Hagen said, define Superior for decades to come.

The street currently looks like "The last picture show," he said. "That's going to change."

Business Improvement Director Lindsey Jacobson urged drivers to be patient during construction, and to remember to shop local.

"Everybody's still open for business, obviously," said Alan Jaques, co-owner of the Belknap Shopping Center. He said the road work is important, and the city needs it, but he's concerned about how it will affect the mainly mom and pop businesses that line the street. The last time Belknap Street was under construction was in the 1980s.

"We survived that, but it was extremely tough," Jaques said. "We hope that people don't forget about all the stores that are on Belknap Street. We can't wait for it to get done."

Ross noted that this is Work Zone Safety Awareness Week. Last year, there were 2,800 work zone crashes in Wisconsin, resulting in 1,100 injuries and nine deaths.

"Slow down, be patient, be aware, be careful," Ross said.

A new state law that took effect in October makes it illegal to talk on a hand-held mobile device while driving through a work zone. Violators face fines of up to $40 on first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses.

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Project updates

The first year of the project will focus on the west and east ends of the street, Banks to John avenues and Birch Avenue to East Seventh Street. Work will concentrate on the south side of the street first, then the north, leaving one lane of traffic in each direction during construction. According to Stephanie King, project design lead with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, concrete cutting is set to start as early as Monday.

An informational meeting for contractors, business owners and interested members of the public takes place at 1 p.m. Monday at the DOT office, 1701 N. Fourth St., Superior. People can also follow the project on the Belknap/US 2 Construction Facebook page or visit https://projects.511wi.gov/Belknap .

Day-to-day concerns can be addressed to project leader Pete Dieckman in the field office at (715) 718-2334.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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