Le Sueur County News:
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) shared its 10-year Capital Highway Investment Plan (CHIP) with the Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners at a meeting Aug. 20. The presentation included details on future projects, where funding is being focused and gave commissioners a chance to ask questions and offer input.
MnDOT projects approximately $857 million being invested into District 7 over from 2019-2028. District 7 includes the counties of Le Sueur, Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Faribault, Jackson, Martin, Nicollet, Nobles, Rock, Sibley, Waseca and Watonwan. Of that, MnDOT plans on investing $480 million on improving pavement conditions, $153 million on project delivery (the process of planning and executing projects), $82 million on roadside infrastructure, and $67 million on bridge conditions, with the remainder going toward accessible pedestrian infrastructure, bicycle infrastructure and community improvement priorities.
These new spending projections put an increased focus on improving pavement conditions. From fiscal year 2018-2021, pavement improvement is projected to make up a third of the budget, with 15% going into bridge infrastructure, but from 2024-2037, more than half the budget is expected to go toward improving pavement.
Le Sueur County is one of the areas that has the most to gain from a focus on pavement improvement. More than 17% of non-national highway system roadways are of poor ride quality, according to MnDOT.
Before the representatives from MnDOT began informing the commissioners of planned projects, they gave an update on existing projects. Ronda Allis, who heads transportation planning for District 7 of MnDOT, announced that construction will begin soon to widen the turn lane on Rabbit Road.
Commissioner Steve Rohlfing asked the MnDOT representatives if Hwy. 99 would receive a seal coating after the project is finished. Greg Ous affirmed that it’s coming in the future.
“That will be part of our future maintenance. We are trying to get that on all of our roads. It’s in that five-year period,” said Ous
Commissioner Lance Wetzel followed up by asking if MnDOT has any plans to improve the section of Hwy. 99 within Le Center limits.
“Right now, we’ve identified it as a 2027 project tentatively,” Allis responded. “We came out a couple months ago and met with the city with Chris [Collins], the mayor, and the city engineer just to talk about what the needs will be with that section of roadway. Part of the problem that we run into at MnDOT is for every mile of urban construction is a $7 million bill, we can do 25 miles of rural roadway for about the same amount of money.”
She added, “So we have to be able to balance how many urban projects can we afford to do in our program. We can afford to do maybe one every three years. There’s a lot of needs in the district, so we’re trying to balance where the higher needs are, where we need to get first … We met with the city to determine, is it going to go the early reconstruction route? If it does, can we still afford to keep it in 2027, or will we have to look at pushing it out even more? We’re still trying to determine that. It’s on our radar.”
MNDOT has several pavement and bridge improvement projects scheduled for the next four years, starting in 2020.
Scheduled between 2020-21 is an urban reconstruction project in New Prague. The project stretches from Fifth Avenue Northwest and 7th Avenue Southeast and includes the construction of a roundabout at a total estimated cost of $7.3 million.
Also being planned for 2020 is the repair of the Hwy. 19 bridge, just east of Henderson, and pavement and drainage repair of a section of Hwy. 13, 300 feet south of Milwaukee Avenue in Montgomery. The projects come in at an estimated cost of $200,000 and $100,000.
In 2021, MnDOT plans to implement their Lakes Connection Project, which runs from Hwy. 14 to 13 through the cities of Madison Lake, Elysian and the west side of Waterville. The project, originally scheduled for 2020, was delayed to address safety issues and is estimated to cost $16.6 million.
“It’s going to involve urban reconstruction in Madison Lake, and there will be a number of intersection modifications with the project in turn lanes,” said Allis. “Probably every county intersection will have turn lanes.”
A section of Hwy. 93, south of Henderson, is scheduled to receive $2.2 million in 2022 for an overlay and bridge rehabilitation. Talks on improving Hwy. 93 prompted commissioners to ask MnDOT if anything would be done to prevent flooding in the area. Hwy. 93 lost 61 days of use due to flooding this past year which heavily impacted the Le Sueur-Henderson School District and Henderson residents and businesses.
Allis responded that there are currently no plans to implement flood prevention infrastructure on 93, due to a lack of funding, but the department is taking steps so they can act quickly if funding does become available. The city of Henderson has put in a bonding request to obtain the needed funds through the Legislature.
“The project right now is a 3-inch overlay. We are going to be completing an EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) in the area in preparation for the possibility of funding. We can work with their local elected officials to have something added in the bonding bill. If funding becomes available, we want to have all the environmental work completed so we can act quickly,” said Allis.
“We will delay the overlay as much as possible if flood mitigation funding becomes available’” Ous added.
Darrell Pettis asked if anything could be done on Hwy. 19 so that it would be usable when flooding was bad on 93, but Ous said it couldn’t be done, because 19 is directly in the floodplain. Hwy. 19 would also be far cheaper to improve than Hwy. 93.
Also scheduled for 2022 are pavement and bridge improvements on Hwy. 169, just north of St. Peter, and bridge improvements on Hwy. 13 on the north and south sides of Kilkenny.
In 2023, an improvement on the intersection of Hwy. 169 and Hwy. 22 in St. Peter is being planned. MnDOT is unsure of what changes they will make at this time.
MnDOT presented some of the far future projects they are planning in Le Sueur County, though Allis stated that the projects and schedules are likely to change.
“These projects are not funded. There are no guarantees these will be done,” said Allis. “If I brought this back in a month, it would look completely different. Things are shuffling around and a lot of it has to do with community input. When we hear feedback from the commissioners and the local officials it does make a difference to us.”
Areas currently selected for improvement in the far future include Hwy. 22 in 2024, Hwy. 19 in 2025, Hwy. 21 and Hwy. 99, including parts of Le Center, in 2027, Hwy. 13 in 2028 and Hwy. 19 in 2029.
After seeing the upcoming slate of projects, Commissioner Wetzel expressed concern that the state was not responding quickly enough to Le Sueur County’s needs.
“Seeing these projects get pushed further and further out, should we be reaching out to our legislatures so we can get more funding so these projects get done sooner?” Wetzel asked.
“To have that conversation would be beneficial,” Ous responded.