Wetland problems foil Flying J work

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Flying J Travel Plaza under construction in Albert Lea is delayed because of structural failure experienced when building up wetland beneath the proposed Doyle Avenue, according to City Engineer Steven Jahnke.

Wetland had to be filled to build Doyle Avenue, which will be the road running north-south leading up to the truck stop from East Main Street. However, the land is not settling correctly, Jahnke said.

Flying J Travel Plaza will be off Exit 11 of Interstate 35. It will align East Main Street north of Home Depot on roughly 19 acres, 14 of which are under construction and the remaining five saved for future development.

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A press release from Flying J Inc. said the section having structural failure is directly adjacent to the proposed auto entrance. The company did not say how long delays will last.

Time requirements for further construction applications are also delaying the process, the company said. Both issues caused delays “not anticipated nor welcomed by Flying J Inc.”

The Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved Flying J to fill four acres of wetland, but about one-tenth of an acre more is needed to help solve the wetland fill.

The best solution for the structural problem is to fill additional wetland, according to Jahnke, which requires more permits.

He said the city and Flying J are going through several engineering options to get the road to settle the way it should. Construction started last fall and settling was anticipated to take three to six months.

“At this point they’re three or four months behind where they had hoped to start,” Jahnke said.

Plus, it could be an expensive fix, he said. Construction on the building is delayed and, Jahnke said, plans have moved the building around to make it work better.

City Manager Victoria Simonsen said construction crews and equipment can’t get to the construction site until the road is built.

“It’s all tied together,” Jahnke said. “They’re not going to build their travel plaza without a road to it.”

Simonsen said she heard rumors and concerns that Flying J isn’t coming because of the delay.

“We’re confident we’re going to work through this road issue,” she said. “We’re pleased that they’re still planning on moving forward despite a construction delay. The city is working closely with them to do whatever we can to help them.”

The Flying J Travel Plaza was first proposed at the end of 2005 with hopes that it be up and running the following year. Construction didn’t begin until the summer of 2007.

According to a press release from Flying J Inc., the anticipated completion date is late this year or early 2009.

Flying J, a Fortune 500 company, will be the third truck stop at Albert Lea’s Exit 11. It will be the first Flying J in Minnesota. The nearest one is at Exit 144 of Interstate 35 near Williams, Iowa.