Minnesota 60 progress on pace
WORTHINGTON -- There won't be an official celebration of the Minnesota 60 four-lane expansion project until the entire stretch of highway from Bigelow to Interstate 90 is completed. Nevertheless, those who have been driving the detour route for the better part of two years might be joyously tapping on their steering wheel with a smile on their face when the first and second phases of the project open later this year. Homeowners along the detour route will likely be cheering as well.
Minnesota Department of Transportation District 7 Project Engineer Bob Williams on Friday said the first phase of the project -- paving from north of Bigelow to north of Worthington Ag Parts -- is completely finished and the road is open to local traffic only, meaning those who reside along the route can use it to reach the southwest side of Worthington.
Phase two, which extends from north of Worthington Ag Parts to just south of the railroad bridge near Pro-Build, has, however, seen some delay, but is still expected to be completed on time.
"One of the concrete subcontractors left the project to do some work up north -- an I-35 concrete overlay project," Williams said. "They are back and they are committing to the work -- better late than never."
Some of the workers returned to Worthington Friday to pick up where they left off with the paving work.
"With a good week, they should get things in good shape as far as paving goes," Williams said. "They had finished all of the machine paving before they left, and now we're to this small machine and hand work."
As the concrete work is being completed by the subcontractor, another paving company is doing curb and gutter work, as well as colored concrete work in the roundabout on Worthington's beltline, near Worthington Power and Equipment. McLaughlin and Schultz crews are, meanwhile, doing bituminous paving of the shoulders along the new concrete.
"I just received an updated schedule from the prime contractor (R&G Construction) this morning which shows they can, and probably will, get done with everything by mid-November," Williams said.
Because of the colder temperatures, Williams said temporary striping will be done before the highway is opened, with permanent striping to wait until the weather is conducive next year.
At about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, there was a bit of celebration as the first official train crossed over the new railroad bridge -- it had been previously used by a couple of work trains, Williams said.
The Union Pacific Railroad is now completing the cutover of the track, and Williams said MnDOT will do survey work along the new alignment of the track for another week.
"Demolition of the existing railroad bridge will start the week of Nov. 5, and that will take two or three weeks," he added.
As that work is in progress, Williams said crews are hoped to begin construction of the retaining wall on the south side of the railroad bridge and will get as much of that contract done as possible yet this year.
"We may open phase 1 and 2 and have a mini-detour on County Road 5 until that work is done," he added.
Before that can happen, concrete needs to be installed in those crossover areas drivers have been using to reach Worthington, specifically at Nobles County 57 and Nobles Street. Williams said crews will be using a "high early mix" that contains extra cement to promote faster curing.
Since those routes are required to remain open, traffic will be directed over the already cured portion of the new highway. Curing of the new concrete will take as little as three days, Williams said.
After the concrete work is finished, the bituminous contractor will come in to complete the shoulder work and pour a temporary road underneath the railroad bridge so traffic flow can continue into Worthington through the winter.
"As long as the ground is not froze, we can do paving," Williams said. "As long as the air is not freezing, we can pour concrete. We can continue to pour concrete for a number of weeks yet if we have to. We expect to finish the paving this year, one way or another."
Despite some public, and MnDOT, frustrations with progress on the project, Williams said crews had an ideal summer in which to get the work done.
"It may not be good for farmers, but it was ideal for road construction," he said, adding that the third phase of the project -- installation of the large storm sewer system along Minnesota 60 from north of the Blue Line Travel Center to the railroad bridge -- is ahead of schedule.
"They intend to get down to the railroad bridge yet this December, so we'll be ahead of the game," Williams said. "That's the last major project ... and we fully expect that to be complete by July 31 from Armour Road to the north. Everything to the south has to be done by November 2013."
In 2014, MnDOT will continue work in Worthington to complete all of the landscaping.
Williams said one disadvantage of taking phase 2 right down to the wire -- the end of the construction season -- is that drivers won't have a chance to really get acclimated to driving on the new roundabout before the snow flies.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.