MnDOT updates County Board on future projects, challenges

Published 6:40 pm Friday, August 27, 2021

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Officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 6 briefed the Mower County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday regarding its 10-year highway plan as part of its yearly county outreach.

This outreach is a chance for MnDOT to bring counties up to speed on its process and plans for future projects that are included in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and the Capital Highway Investment Plan (CHIP).

Mower is expected to see a few projects of various scopes in the next 10 years, with STIP projects in a time scale of 1-4 years and CHIP 5-10 years out.

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Two of the biggest STIP projects are slated to take place in the next two years, including a resurfacing of Highway 105 from Turtle Creek in Austin to the Iowa Border next year.

The other is a mammoth project to start replacing five bridges over Interstate 90 in 2023, excluding the 28th Street Northeast bridge, which is currently being replaced. This project looks to take multiple years to complete.

“This is a pretty significant project,” explained Kurt Wayne, principal planner for District 6 which covers southeast Minnesota. “Those bridges — many or all are original to the interstate system, so it’s time.”

A third project, slated for 2022, will be a reconstruction of Highway 56 running through LeRoy.

Another project that will stretch into both Mower and Olmsted counties includes a resurfacing of I-90 from east of Mower County Road 1 to east of Highway 63 next year.

While those projects are programmed, the CHIP projects further out are planned and while not set in stone, they are substantial.

Some of those include:

• 2026: Resurfacing of Highway 218 from Interstate 90 to south of Highway 30;

• 2027: Resurfacing of westbound Interstate 90 from Mower County Road 46 to Highway 16;

• 2028: Resurfacing of eastbound Interstate 90 from Mower County Road 46 to Highway 16;

• 2029: Resurfacing of Highway 56 from Olmsted County Road 46 to Highway 14;

• 2029: Resurfacing of Highway 63 from west of Junction Highway 16 to Stewartville;

• 2029: Resurfacing Interstate 90 from Highway 105 to Mower County Road 46; and

• 2030: Replace Highway 56 bridge over stream east of LeRoy.

One difficulty with the CHIP projects rests on funding, which over recent years has seen a decrease in what is available to MnDOT.

“Each year is a little bit less,” Wayne said. “As of right now, this has been the trend the last couple of years. Knowing what we are dealing with is a little less than we were before.”

However, there isn’t a clear cut reason as to why revenue seems to be dipping, leaving MnDOT to adjust as needed and adapt to current trends without trying to guess what things will look like so far out.

“We have to assume current trends and how we will continue into the future,” Wayne said.

It’s a situation that requires MnDOT to be flexible with its projects.

“It’s somewhere in the middle in my professional opinion,” Wayne said. “It’s difficult to plan in the fact we can’t give a lot of certainty, but the way the plan works gives us a little bit of flexibility. We try to get ahead on these pavement and bridge projects.

Another trend MnDOT is seeing is more and more bridges needing repair or replacement, especially when looking toward the end of the 10-year plan.

“At the end of CHIP, we do have more bridges in poor condition,” Wayne explained, noting that a gap in funding is making the process more difficult. “We see a bit of a problem there and we’re doing the best to fix that with the resources at hand.”