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MnDOT talks MN 60 future

WINDOM — Now that the four-lane expansion of Minnesota 60 in Worthington is nearing completion, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is turning its efforts to the three gap projects located between Windom and St. James.

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During a meeting of the Highway 60 Action Corporation in Windom Thursday, MnDOT engineers provided an update of the construction progress.

Keith Bloomgren, a construction engineer at MnDOT’s Windom office, said work on the east gap, which stretches from Butterfield to St. James, is anticipated to be completed by Oct. 15, 2014. The nearly six-mile-long project includes the construction of two new lanes on the south side of the existing two-lane highway, as well as a new bridge over the railroad at Butterfield. Mathiowetz Construction of Sleepy Eye is the prime contractor on the $22.3 million project, with Duinnink Inc. leading the bridge project.

Bloomgren said the east gap project was bid with an option for alternative surfacing — bidders could choose either concrete or bituminous — for the roadway. The low bid by Mathiowetz calls for a bituminous surface on the two new lanes.

“Based on the original cost, the project is about 65 percent complete,” he said. “Work started in mid-July.”

At this time, crews are working on bridge construction, which will continue through the winter and wrap up around July. Paving of the new lanes will be in August and September, Bloomgren said.

Bid letting will take place in 2014 on the middle gap project, which extends from Mountain Lake to Butterfield, with construction to begin in 2015. The five-mile gap is the shortest length and is expected to be the easiest to complete, as there are no bridge projects involved, said Brett Benzkofer, a MnDOT design engineer from the Mankato office.

This project will also include an alternative surfacing bid process, with contractors choosing either concrete or bituminous.

The construction estimate is $14.5 million, with total project costs closer to $20 million.

At this time, the project is slated for completion in 2016, however Bloomgren said it’s a possibility the work could be completed in one year.

At roughly 8 miles in length, the west gap is the longest stretch to be expanded to four lanes. The route extends from Windom to Mountain Lake and, unlike the middle and east gaps, the two new lanes will be constructed on the north side of the existing two lanes.

At Bingham Lake, MnDOT is planning to create reduced conflict intersections, which require drivers who want to cross the intersection or make a left-hand turn to travel 700- to 1,000 feet to the right and then make a U-turn.

“On a rural four-lane, the most dangerous points are the intersections,” Benzkofer said, adding that the reduced conflict intersections reduce fatal crashes by 70 percent and injury crashes by 42 percent.

While there had been talk of including a round-about at the intersection of Minnesota 60 and U.S. 71 in Windom with this project, Benzkofer said there isn’t enough funding to complete the work.

Bid letting is planned December 2016 on the west gap, with the project slated to start in 2017 and finish in 2018. The estimated cost is $36.5 million.

“There’s a good chance this will be done as predicted,” Benzkofer said. “Right now we’re working on the geometric layout.”

Following up on the completion of the west gap, a mill and overlay project will be done in Windom in 2018, stretching from Sixth Street to the start of the west gap.

Annette Bair, transportation planner for the Southwest Regional Development Commission, said that once the four-lane highway expansion is completed from the Iowa State Line to Mankato, she would like to see the Highway 60 Action Corp. committee continue to exist, but change its focus to economic development in communities along the highway.

“Some of the people (on the committee) might change, but we should continue to look at access, control of the access and ensure land use is protected, making sure it stays a corridor,” she said.

Thursday’s meeting included an election of officers, with all existing officers retaining their seats. They include Stephen Schnieder, director of Nobles County Public Works, the president; John Berg, former Watonwan County Commissioner, as vice president; and Darlene Macklin, executive director of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, as secretary-treasurer.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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