County engineer discusses future road, bridge work

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 10, 2003

Mower County has upgraded 50 deficient bridges in five years.

There's still 90 to go.

Michael Hanson, county engineer, told the Mower County Board of Commissioners, about the county's "high priority" bridges at a recent meeting.

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The county highway department is responsible for all bridges in Mower County, whether they are located within the city limits of municipalities, townships or other environs.

Forty of the remaining 90 bridges are structurally deficient enough to earn the "high priority" status.

Hanson sought the commissioners' permission to move a bridge in Section 27, Bennington Township, onto the list of deficient bridges.

The commissioners complied with Hanson's request. Ray Tucker, 2nd District, made the motion to approve the new list of high priority bridges needing repair or replacement. Richard P. Cummings, 1st District, seconded it. All five commissioners voted "Aye."

Hanson also expressed concern with the county's ability to "do all the bridges," because of the state's budget shortfall.

The bridge in question will be one of four to receive attention this year, Hanson said.

Also on tap for the 2003 construction season is the paving of County Highway 14 between LeRoy and Highway 16.

"All of the bridges and the Highway 14 project are in the 2nd District," Hanson said. The remark prompted good-natured kidding of commissioner Tucker by the other four county commissioners.

Tucker represents the 2nd commissioner district, which includes 12 townships and eight municipalities or roughly the eastern two-thirds of Mower County. Hanson told the commissioners, the specifications will include paving Highway 14 to be designated a 10-ton highway.

The bid-opening date he suggested was 1 p.m. Feb. 10.

Tucker again made the motion and this time David Hillier, 3rd District, seconded it. It was approved by a 5-0 vote.

The joking about so many bridge and highway improvement projects occurring in one construction season in a single commissioner district soon grew "defensive."

Hanson explained to the commissioners, "We have a $1.8 million project going on at 18th Avenue NW in Austin in the 1st District," he said. "We spent $350,000 last summer on two bridge projects in the city of Austin."

"I think we sort of spread the wealth around the county last summer as best we could," the county engineer said.

Then Hanson told the county commissioners about new traffic signal lights, which allow police, fire and ambulance service officers to change the signal by pressing a button in their vehicles.

The feature comes with an additional cost for the technology, Hanson said.

The technology could be employed at traffic signal lights along the county's 18th Avenue NW thoroughfare this spring.

One signal light in the city of Austin along Fourth Street NW

at the Ninth Avenue/First Drive intersection is already equipped for site-specific adjustment by emergency vehicles.

Jon W. Erichson, city engineer and director of public works, has consulted Hanson about the possibility of making the 18th Avenue NW traffic lights also site-specific to the new Opti-Com technology.

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