At long last: Ribbon-cutting heralds completion of four-lane highway work
WORTHINGTON — After nearly 50 years of effort, Minnesota 60 from the Iowa state line to Interstate 90 at Worthington is now open.
“This is not only a great day for Worthington and Nobles County, but a great day for southwest Minnesota,” said Robert Demuth Jr., chairman of the Nobles County Board of Commissioners.
The latest portion of the longtime project included the construction of a four-lane divided expressway from the end of the Bigelow bypass to Interstate 90. It remains on the existing route, with some minor changes in the Lake Street and Oxford Street areas in Worthington.
Following the four-lane reconstruction of Iowa 60, the Bigelow-to-Worthington segment of the highway was the last remaining two-lane section between Sioux City, Iowa, and Windom.
The change from four lanes to two and back again a short distance later was not consistent with a good design practice of providing a predictable system for motorists, Minnesota Department of Transportation District Engineer Greg Ous explained. To maintain system continuity, a bypass was constructed to the east of Bigelow, and the existing route expanded to four lanes all the way into Worthington.
During an emotional celebration at Worthington Christian Church following the ribbon cutting ceremony, District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, spoke on his involvement in the project.
“I was talking to a few people back home and everyone told me, ‘Rod, fight like crazy for Highway 60,’” Hamilton said through tears. “We had this opportunity to override the governor.”
In 2008, then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s vetoed a $6.6 billion transportation funding bill that included Minnesota’s first state gas tax hike in 20 years.
“We needed five votes to override the governor,” Hamilton recalled. “People in the legislature were saying, ‘We think we’re going do this — this is going to end up passing.’ So I started working on legislation with the Speaker at the time, the Majority Leader and others. The language of the legislation was so vague we could have been talking about any highway, and there was no way I was going to support that. So we added in another amendment, and low and behold it was Highway 60.”
While construction is completed from the Iowa state line to I-90, work on anew four-lane highway stretch from Windom to St. James will be continuing in the 2014 construction year.
That estimated $100 million project will create two new eastbound lanes to the south of an existing two-lane section from Butterfield to St. James, as well as two new eastbound lanes to the south of an existing two-lane section from Mountain Lake to Butterfield. There will also be two new westbound lanes to the north of an existing two-lane section between Windom to Mountain Lake.
This alignment was selected because it has fewer business and farmland impacts and is most cost-effective, Ous said. The Windom to St. James project is estimated to be complete in 2018.
“I want to thank the city of Worthington and Nobles County,” Ous said. “We’ve been here for three long years, and I’m sure you’re all ready to see us go.
I just want to thank everyone who has been involved. It really is a celebration today, and I really look forward to meeting everyone back up in Windom in 2018.”
Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.