DULUTH — A section of the popular North Shore Scenic Drive between Duluth and Two Harbors will close for emergency repairs next week, at the height of fall color season.
The highway slope on the Lake Superior side is failing, and the road is in danger of slumping into the lake. In July, a local resident noticed cracking along the shoulder lines, said Rachel Gregg, a bridge engineer for St. Louis County.
"We've been monitoring it for a few weeks, and even in a week's time it's been moving," she said.
Last spring's intense flooding and heavy snowfall, paired with the effect of waves on the slope over time, has washed away shoreline, making the slope unstable. In May, rivers and tributaries along the North Shore were swollen with more than 2 inches of rain, creating dangerous high-water conditions and flooding that led to closures of trails, roads, bridges and state parks. More than 100 inches of snow fell in the Two Harbors area last winter.
That all contributed to erosion on the scenic drive, Gregg said.
The 183-foot section to be addressed with a temporary fix this fall is just the beginning of construction for the road. In 2023, 1,500 feet of the scenic drive will undergo erosion repairs. The goal is to start and finish before Grandma's Marathon, which travels through that stretch, but it may begin later in the summer or fall depending on construction season variables, Gregg said. That closure is likely to span more than two months.
This smaller section of the drive will be closed nearly five weeks — Tuesday through Nov. 12 — from Ryan Road to Homestead Road. Duluth's Northland Constructors will remove clay before stabilizing the road.
Repairs will begin just north of the New Scenic Cafe, so travel to the restaurant isn't affected for those coming from Duluth. Nearby homes will also remain accessible. The detour off the scenic drive from Duluth is slated for Ryan Road onto Hwy. 61, then onto Homestead Road to return to the scenic drive.
The well-traveled route that stems from the early 1900s follows the shoreline of Lake Superior and runs parallel to a newer section of Hwy. 61.