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Construction moving forward on Minnesota 60

Heavy trucks move materials in the reconstruction of Minnesota 60 Friday afternoon, shown here looking south near Org.

WORTHINGTON -- If all goes as planned, meaning construction season weather cooperates and the state can avoid another summertime government shutdown, work on the four-lane Minnesota 60 expansion project around Worthington should be completed by late 2013, with smaller landscaping projects on the docket for 2014.

Officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation reported on the progress of construction and outlined a plan for future work during a meeting of the Highway 60 Action Corporation Friday noon in Worthington. The corporation, founded nearly 50 years ago, has dwindled in membership as the highway from the Minnesota-Iowa line to Mankato has expanded to four lanes over the last several decades.

"In about six years, when this thing is all done, this (group) will probably disband and that will be a marvel," said Jim Swanson, MnDOT District 7 engineer.

Meanwhile, there is much work yet to be done. MnDOT construction engineer Bob Williams, of Windom, provided a recap of Minnesota 60 expansion work dating back to 2008, when the highway expansion at Bigelow began. At this time, work is ongoing on both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Worthington project, which includes the four lane expansion from north of Bigelow to just south of the railroad bridge that spans Minnesota 60 in Worthington.

"We had a very wet spring and was behind schedule, and being shut down in the middle of the season didn't help at all," Williams said.

Concrete paving on the 5.6-mile stretch from north of Bigelow to Nobles County State Aid Highway 10 is scheduled for early June next year, with the highway expected to open up to local traffic by August.

Within Worthington's city limits, Williams said sewer, water and utility work is nearly done in the Morningside neighborhood, and the last of the homes needed for the construction project in that area are being demolished. On Monday, he said, demolition work will begin on the trailer homes north of the railroad. Demolition of the Year-Round Toys building is anticipated to take place by next spring.

Meanwhile, construction continues on the railroad bridge over Minnesota 60, which makes up the third phase of the construction project. Traffic will reopen later this fall on the underpass, and will be rerouted again next spring. Williams said that portion of the project has seen some delay because steel girders, anticipated to arrive this fall, will not arrive until March.

Throughout the winter, travelers should not experience any detours within the city limits, although the Minnesota 60 detour north of Bigelow to Worthington (CSAH 4, 5 and 35) will remain in effect until next fall.

There will be a lot of work happening in all three of the phases next year.

"I know it's going to be a major inconvenience to get around, but by next fall there will be some benefits," Williams said.

Loren and Judy Stevens, who own a llama farm and related business on Minnesota 60 south of Worthington, know all about the inconvenience caused by the highway reconstruction. In attendance at Friday's meeting, they voiced concern about snowplowing this winter and the ability for delivery trucks to get into their property.

Williams said MnDOT will pave the Stevens' driveway yet this fall and is working to contract privately with an individual to provide snow removal on it. Williams assured the couple that plows will maintain accessibility on the highway.

Judy Stevens said they have also had problems with people driving up into their yard because they've passed the "Road Closed" signs and couldn't find their way through the highway. She said she's called the sheriff, but they "wouldn't come out."

Nobles County Commissioner David Benson asked if CSAH 6 at Minnesota 60, south of the Stevens farm, would be maintained this winter, and Williams said that wasn't likely, as the highway access there will remained closed until next fall.

A few other concerns were addressed during the meeting, including the temporary stop signs now in place on East Oxford Street near Graham Tire; and the amount of semi traffic going through town as trucks try to find an alternate route to the signed detour.

In addition to the Minnesota 60 expansion work in Worthington, plans are ongoing on the remaining portions of the highway that are still two lanes, stretching between Windom and St. James.

MnDOT project manager Peter Harff is working on those phases of the project, said construction will take place in 2013-2014 to expand the stretch from St. James to Butterfield; from 2015-2016 for the stretch from Butterfield to Mountain Lake; and 2017-2018 for the stretch from Mountain Lake to Windom.

"We will start the process of purchasing land soon and work on designs after the first of the year," Harff said.

Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
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