Realigned Wood Road open northwest of Cook

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Public Works Department  • Richard H. Hansen Transportation & Public Works Complex
4787 Midway Road, Duluth, MN 55811 • Phone: (218) 625-3830

James T. Foldesi, P.E.
Public Works Director/Highway Engineer



September 17, 2018

MEDIA CONTACT: Vic Lund, Traffic Engineer


Realigned Wood Road northwest of Cook is open to traffic

It's not a heavily traveled road, but for the residents on Wood Road and Winnifred Road northwest of Cook, it's their only access in and out of their homes. And with increasing frequency, Wood Road has been blocked by stopped trains.


That changes now with the completion of a new alignment of Wood Road. The one mile bypass was built through a partnership between the CN railroad and St. Louis County Public Works. The new gravel road, which will become a new county road, runs roughly parallel along the east side of the railroad tracks connecting East Olson Road to Wood Road. The old Wood Road, between East Olson Road and the railroad tracks, will remain as a county road.  


The railroad track that crossed the old Wood Road is a main track operated by CN between Ranier - east of International Falls - and Duluth. This CN railroad corridor carries approximately 24 trains per day, a number expected to increase in the future. It is largely single track through St. Louis County; however the section where Wood Road crossed is a double track, known as a siding, which is used to allow trains to pass one another. This results in trains having to stop to wait for other trains to pass. This would block the intersection for significant lengths of time, leaving residents and emergency services no other route between their homes and connecting roads.


In 2013, residents, CN, St. Louis County, and Senator Tom Bakk began discussing possible solutions. After considering multiple options and the costs associated with each, the decision was made to realign Wood Road to the east side of the railroad track and connect it to East Olson Road. The realignment removes the railroad crossing through the passing siding where trains are often stopped and provides Wood Road an unobstructed connection to East Olson Road.

"CN deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and playing a leadership role in identifying and pursuing a solution," said Vic Lund, St. Louis County traffic engineer. "They recognized the potentially dangerous situation and took it upon themselves to complete all the steps - including design, environmental review, acquisition of land and construction - to make this happen."

The cost of the project was covered by CN. St. Louis County Public Works reviewed and approved all plans, and will now be responsible for maintaining the new county road. Additionally, MnDOT, St. Louis County, and CN partnered as a result of this project to install railroad crossing warning lights and gates at the railroad crossing located on East Olson Road. The warning lights and gates will be installed in 2019.

Wood Road drone image
This arial photo looks south toward Olson Road (not visible) and shows the new Wood Road on the left side of the railroad tracks, while the former Wood Road remains on the right. The railroad crossing is now permanently closed.