WSN paves the way for road trip season. Enjoy the ride!

It’s a perfect night in July — the sun is getting low, the lake is calm, and the temperature is just right. Let’s ride!

Sometimes the best part of the day is spent on the road. No meetings. No worries. Just the wind blowing through your hair and the low hum of the engine. Whether you’re an easy-rider or a road-warrior, WSN roads will get you to your destination safely and comfortably.

The WSN-designed road in this video is County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 20/Riverside Drive. The City of Brainerd and Crow Wing County faced several problems with this roadway, including significant width constraints and safety issues. The pavement was crumbling away on the side of a bluff near Ahrens Hill and Gilbert Lake on the northern edge of Brainerd.

The narrow road that followed the edge of the winding bluff lacked proper drainage, was built into a very steep slope, and had no guardrails. WSN and Gale-Tec Engineering devised a creative solution that addressed these concerns and made the roadway safer: a 2,950-foot-long vegetative-faced reinforced soil slope (RSS).

The RSS proved to be a challenge to design and install, but it was the one solution that most fully addressed the project’s goals. It accommodated a wider roadbed, which was required under State Aid guidelines, and allowed appropriate drainage to be worked into the project. It also allowed the uphill slope to remain largely undisturbed, minimized impacts on the downhill slope, and provided an organic-looking result.

The Ahrens Hill RSS is one of the largest vegetative-faced geosynthetic reinforced walls in the Midwest, both in area and length. Plantings flourished and grew quickly in its rich, organic material. As a result of the RSS, residents and visitors now enjoy a much safer experience while driving along the bluff near Ahrens Hill.

This project was recognized in 2011 for engineering excellence by a Grand Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies/Minnesota (ACEC/MN) and was added to the Seven Wonders of Engineering List from the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers (MnSPE).