Construction on schedule

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 3, 2002

The 18th Avenue NW highway reconstruction project is "on schedule."

That's what Mower County Highway Department engineer Michael Hanson said.

"At this stage of the project, I am still optimistic," Hanson said.

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The major highway reconstruction project between Fourth Street NW and U.S. Highway 218 N has some people concerned. The roadway is one of the most heavily-traveled in Mower County. Despite its legitimacy as a "county" highway, it serves the city of Austin, both literally and figuratively.

More city residents use it and the city's influence as a co-developer with many of the commercial projects is also evident.

The area is home to Holiday Inn of Austin, Perkins Family Restaurant, Days Inn, AmericInn, HyVee Food Store and OakPark Mall. On the north side of the highway is Applebee's restaurant, Big Kmart Store, CashWise Food and Drugs and Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, plus the Oaks Condominiums.

OakPark Village townhomes also dot the northern borders of the highway. In addition, Dolan's Landscape and Spas, the new Motor Supply Company store and Cooperative Response Center are in the area.

In fact, only the east-west highway and a small area near the east end of the throughway are actually outside Austin and part of Lansing township.

Work began Aug. 7, when Crane Creek Construction Inc. of Owatonna was awarded the general contract for the work.

The $1.84 million project had to overcome a "snag," when six property owners refused to sell land needed for the highway's right-of-way expansion and a condemnation hearing was held July 11.

Also, Austin Utilities was involved in the project from the "get-go" because of the electrical, gas and water connections running over and above the highway.

Hanson said critics of the apparent slow pace of the project may not be aware that it is being done in phases.

According to the county engineer, Crane Creek Construction Inc. is on track to complete the required grading, base preparation, curb and gutter and paving of all four lanes (two eastbound and two westbound) by the Nov. 30 deadline.

The paving will put the four lanes up to the level of the final layer of asphalt, which will be applied next year.

"Of course," Hanson said, "the weather is always a consideration any time of the year and if we would get a Halloween ice storm, like we got about 10 years ago, that would stop everything.

"Nobody can predict something like that."

Crane Creek Construction Inc.'s contract with Mower County calls for it to complete all work by June 30, 2003.

That will include traffic medians, a sidewalk from the Oaks Condominiums to the Applebee's restaurant, plus other sidewalks, decorative street lighting at the city's request and traffic signal lights at the entrance to Cash Wise Food and Drugs and the other strip mall businesses.

In addition, there will be a four-way stop intersection at the Eighth Street NW entrance to CRC, Motor Supply Company and other properties on the north side of the highway.

The 18th Avenue and Fourth Street NW "stop" intersection will remain that way without a traffic signal.

However, Hanson did advise electrical conduits will be installed at the Eighth and Fourth Street intersections "in the event something changes in the future."

Earlier this summer, Hanson said there are no "guarantees," when embarking on a project such as this and particularly when fall weather creates a whole new set of circumstances.

"They've got two months to get the work done. That's what the contract allows," he said.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at