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Sartell bridge

Rehabilitating County Road 1 in Sartell, Minnesota


County Road 1 (CR 1) is one of three major north-south corridors running through the heart of Sartell, Minnesota. Over the years, this stretch of roadway suffered significant deterioration and outdated, undersized utilities. Adding to the project's complexity, CR 1 is located adjacent to the Mississippi River and within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain.

City and County officials recognized that rehabilitating this stretch of roadway would improve the health and safety of businesses and residents, offering opportunities for active living, enhancing the area's character, and establishing a stronger connection between residents and the river.


Stearns County, the City of Sartell, and SEH collaborated on the 1.4-mile, $12.4 million Minnesota State Aid CR 1 road and utility reconstruction project. SEH provided project management, preliminary and final design, public outreach, agency coordination, and construction management and inspection services. This complex project extended well beyond technical upgrades, aligning with local and regional goals to enhance safety, protect the environment, and facilitate pedestrian access to the natural surroundings.Sartell project images

Multimodal Safety and Connection to Nature

One of the key accomplishments of this project’s design was reducing the roadway’s width and shifting the alignment away from the Mississippi River. This made it possible to retain on-road bike paths, add pedestrian facilities, and implement a safe main corridor. Upgraded crosswalk systems, including push-button flashing pedestrian crossings and islands at four locations, promote active living and reduce carbon emissions by encouraging walking, biking, and other forms of eco-friendly transportation.

A new pedestrian trail was added, running the entire 1.4 miles of the project corridor adjacent to the Mississippi River, allowing residents and visitors to appreciate the surrounding environment in a way that was impossible before. This new trail connects three city parks, the pedestrian bridge, and the City’s comprehensive city-wide trail system. A new river overlook was also added using an existing concrete retaining wall featuring a cantilevered concrete slab system for a unique viewing platform.

Bridge Restoration Opens Up Pedestrian Access

Improvements were made to an old Sartell utility bridge, unused since 1984, opening it up for public access and further connection to the river. Improvements incorporated Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) switchback access, new fencing, extension of the bridge decking, and new lighting. The enhanced lighting now illuminates the pedestrian walkway along the bridge and includes variations to change the color and aesthetics during different holidays and events.

Unique Survey Techniques

The team utilized three survey techniques, including traditional “boots on the ground” topographic survey, drone topographic survey to help with the riverbank restoration elements of the project, and underwater hydrographic sonar survey to obtain ground elevation under the water surface to assist with the FEMA floodplain modeling and permitting process.

Landscape and Park Enhancements

To further enhance the natural beauty of the area, landscape enhancements incorporated planting 88 new trees and 22 shrubs. The team also used native seeding and worked around the existing mature trees to minimize environmental impacts. Nearby Watab and Veterans Parks received additional parking, new handicap stalls, green space, and plantings.

Environmentally Focused Riverbank Restoration

SEH helped the City and County obtain a Clean Water Grant to restore 420 linear feet of riverbank. Special attention was paid to restoring and stabilizing the natural riverbank using a combination of grading, riprap, brush layering, root rap, and native plantings.

Contaminated Soils

One significant challenge was handling contaminated soils that were encountered during excavation. The team employed on-site environmental management, containment, and testing procedures to ensure the safety of the workers and the public and comply with regulations. Contaminated soils were stored on plastic and covered until they could be properly tested and disposed of in a landfill to meet environmental regulations.

Utility Reconstruction and Coordination

Extensive water and sewer utility reconstruction demanded coordinated efforts and tailored technical solutions, with a particular emphasis on major private utility relocations that required careful planning to minimize disruptions and align with project phasing:

  • Increased the main sizes to expand overall capacity for future growth
  • Added more than 5,000 LF of new 12-inch and 15-inch sanitary sewer main
  • Added more than 7,000 LF of new 10-inch and 16-inch water main
  • Reconstruction of 33 sanitary sewer services and 61 water services
  • New force main construction replacing existing 6-inch with new 12-inch force main
  • Water and sewer main utility bridge crossing over Watab River 

In addition, old and unknown utilities were encountered during construction, requiring prompt communication to address issues and keep construction on track.

Improved Stormwater Management

The project incorporated multiple aspects to mitigate stormwater impacts, including narrowing the road and shifting it away from the Mississippi River, reducing impervious surface area for better stormwater management, reducing discharge points into the river from 12 to 7, and rerouting stormwater to discharge below the existing dam for flood impact reduction. An underground filtration treatment system was installed for the project area and nearby neighborhoods, and 12 sedimentation and energy dissipation devices were added for enhanced garbage collection and sediment removal. Additionally, storm sewer outlets to the Mississippi River were lined to minimize impacts on green space and the riverbank.

Extensive Public Engagement

Recognizing the importance of engaging the community, the City and County embraced a comprehensive approach to public involvement, offering both virtual and in-person options. This strategy included distributing project surveys through mail, conducting one-on-one meetings, and organizing in-person public meetings. To keep the community well-informed, the project team provided regular updates through project newsletters, mailings, and weekly email communications.

Proactive Construction Phasing

As one of the community’s main north-south corridors, and heavily relied upon by residents, detailed project phasing, regularly adjusted temporary traffic control measures, and detours were implemented to minimize disruption and maintain traffic flow and access during construction.

Focus on Future Growth

The completed project includes water and sewer main replacement and capacity improvements to serve residents into the future and account for continued growth and economic development. Additionally, a conduit was installed for future fiber lines, supporting efforts to add service as the community grows.

This comprehensive project achieved a transformative renewal, creating a safer, more sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing route while integrating modern planning and design guidelines and protecting the local environment. The end result is a reconstruction project that is successful in the eyes of Stearns County, the City of Sartell, and the people who use these facilities each day.


  • 2024 Engineering Excellence Honor Award | American Council of Engineering Companies, Minnesota Chapter (ACEC-MN)

County Road 1 Improvements


Sartell, Minnesota


City of Sartell

  • Over 2,000 sq. ft. of new modular block retaining wall constructed to replace existing railroad tie retaining wall
  • Saved existing granite retaining wall by reinforcing it with cleaning and tuck pointing
  • 10-foot-high trail lighting replacements strategically placed to minimize lighting impacts to residents and environment
  • Major utility improvements, capacity increases, and private utility relocations
  • FEMA floodplain management
  • Civil engineering
  • Construction services
  • Environmental engineering
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Natural resources
  • Structural engineering
  • Survey
  • Traffic engineering
  • Water engineering
  • Water resources engineering