The traveler's conundrum
WORTHINGTON -- Everyone seems to know that Minnesota has two seasons -- winter and road construction --and it's going to be a particularly busy road construction season around Worthington this year as contractors continue work on the Minnesota 60 four-lane expansion project.
More than 100 people attended an open house hosted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Monday in Worthington to hear an update on the construction projects and ask questions about detours and business access.
Bob Williams, MnDOT District 7 project engineer, based in Windom, said everything is going well with the project, and construction is on schedule.
"If we knew we were going to have such a warm, dry fall, there's more we could have planned to do," said Williams.
The mild winter certainly helped in terms of cost savings. Williams said the grading work completed last year on the first phase of the project, stretching from north of Nobles County 4 to the south side of Worthington, held up well and minimal repair work was needed this spring.
Added cost savings came from not needing a private contractor to frequently remove snow for area residents along the affected routes.
While the grading work on Phase 1 held up well through the winter, the detour route taking traffic from Minnesota 60 onto Nobles County State Aid Highways 4, 5 and 33 didn't. Several areas of the detour route experienced pavement cracking and breakage. As a result, the detour shifted more than a month ago, routing travelers west and north, through Rushmore, and onto Interstate 90.
Williams said contractors will install a 1.5-inch overlay on approximately four miles of CSAHs 4 and 5 in preparation to re-open that segment as the official detour. Crews will also build up some of the shoulders and restripe the roads over the next couple of weeks.
Just prior to reopening the detour on CSAH 4, 5 and 33, Williams said a three-way stop will again be erected on Oxford Street, at the intersection of CSAH 33. This same three-way stop was utilized earlier, and was the cause of several car crashes.
This time, Williams said MnDOT will enact the three-way stop before the detour route is re-established, giving local residents time to get used to the new stop signs. In addition, temporary rumble strips will be brought in and used for the duration of the detour to help alert drivers of the need to stop.
Paving to begin
Williams said the 5.5-mile stretch of new highway in Phase 1 is nearly ready for concrete paving.
"PCI is the paving subcontractor, and they're due to come here roughly June 1," he explained. "Later this summer, that project will be essentially complete to north of Worthington Ag Parts."
The detour on CSAHs 4, 5 and 33 will remain in place, however, until later this fall, after paving is completed on the second phase of the project. That portion of the new highway, which extends to the railroad bridge near ProBuild, is slated to be paved in July and August.
"The railroad bridge project ... (is) on schedule, however we have the steel girders in a separate contract and the girders are substantially late," Williams said.
As a result of the state government shutdown last summer, MnDOT's order for steel girders moved to the end of the fabricator's orders. The girders were supposed to arrive last fall or this spring, but the hope is now to have them by late July.
"In the bigger scheme of things, it will not delay the overall completion and will not interfere with the Phase 3 project," Williams said.
The second phase of construction, extending the four-lane highway from near Worthington Ag Parts to near ProBuild, will include the creation of the first of three roundabouts planned within the city limits. It will be located near Worthington Power & Equipment, merging CSAH 35 with U.S. 59 and Minnesota 60 traffic.
Two additional round-abouts are included in the third phase of construction. They will be constructed at the U.S. 59/Minnesota 60 junction with Oxford Street in the area of the former trailer court, as well as just south of Interstate 90. Traffic lights will be installed at the intersection of Armour Road as part of this project.
Williams said the third phase is currently being advertised, with bid-letting slated for May 18. Construction on that portion of the project is slated to begin in July.
"That will go from south of the railroad bridge to north of the Blue Line truck stop," he added.
During the third phase of construction, Williams said a major storm sewer line will be constructed to drain runoff from under the railroad bridge. That project will begin north of the Blue Line and head south.
Traffic will be detoured during the third phase of the construction project, but Williams said work from Armour Road north will be the first priority in order to have the shortest disruption to traffic to and from the JBS pork processing facility.
Acquisitions, demolition complete
Demolition has been completed of residential homes in the Morningside neighborhood, as well as the East Acres trailer court, and all that remains of Year-Round Toys is one building that is being disassembled to be moved. When that building is out of the way, Williams said all of the property acquisitions will be complete.
As part of the project, MnDOT purchased the Stevens Llama-Tique farm, located south of Worthington. The acquisition, in excess of $1 million for the 32-plus acre parcel, was the result of Loren and Judy Stevens' loss of pastureland for their llama herd. The state also purchased land from the Stevens adjacent to Judicial Ditch 6. That particular parcel has been developed for the new highway.
As for the main llama farm, Williams said the state will, at some time in the future, offer the land for sale by sealed bid.
"There are other remnant parcels that will either be turned back to the county or the city," he added of the acquired properties.
Once all of the construction has been completed on the four-lane expansion, Williams said the final phase will include landscaping in 2014.
During that project, deciduous and conifer trees will be planted along the highway near the residential neighborhoods to improve the appearance.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.