Bigelow bypass celebratedMinnesota 60 four-lane road will open in coming weeks
Referred to as a small piece of a big corridor, the nearly completed stretch of Minnesota 60 that connects with Iowa 60 and bypasses Bigelow was celebrated Tuesday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Bigelow Fire Hall.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Referred to as a small piece of a big corridor, the nearly completed stretch of Minnesota 60 that connects with Iowa 60 and bypasses Bigelow was celebrated Tuesday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Bigelow Fire Hall.
The highway had been slated to open by Oct. 31, but with rain in the forecast for the next several days, officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation now say it could be mid-November before vehicles can traverse the four-lane highway.
Officials with MnDOT, the Iowa Department of Transportation and political leaders were on hand Tuesday to recognize the cooperation between the two states in the expansion of Highway 60. Both Minnesota and Iowa began talking about expanding the highway in the 1960s, but Iowa was the first to complete the dream — taking just 11 years to complete the 64.7 miles from near LeMars, Iowa, to just south of Bigelow.
Several leaders didn’t miss taking a stab at Minnesota’s slow progress during the ceremony, including MnDOT deputy commissioner Khani Sahebjam.
“I don’t think we’ve worked so many, many years to get projects done, and here we are, 40 years later,” Sahebjam said. “There’s been great support for this project. That’s truly how you have a project succeed — you have a big coalition, it will only take 40 years. If you didn’t have a coalition, it would have taken 80 years, maybe, I don’t know.”
The Highway 60 Action Corporation has pushed for the four-lane expansion project since its inception in 1960.
While safety has been one of the major concerns in the desire to expand the highway, several dignitaries spoke Tuesday of the positive impact to commerce once the entire four-lane project is completed. Plans are to expand the four-lane highway from Bigelow to Worthington between 2010 and 2013, and then complete gaps in the four-lane between Windom and St. James starting in 2013.
“It’s very important and vital to our economy, safety and moving freight around the country,” Sahebjam said.
With construction costs and inflation on the rise, Sahebjam said citizens will begin to see road projects pushed through more quickly. A perfect example is the 11 months it took from concept to completion of the Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis.
“We know we can do things fast,” Sahebjam said.
Tony Lazarowicz, Iowa Department of Transportation District Engineer, said each time his state completed a new section of the Iowa 60 expansion positive feedback was received from those who travel the highway. He said the same will happen in Minnesota.
Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, said if he had any money he’d start buying land along the highway in Minnesota, as he predicts industry and commerce to sprout up as the road is completed.
Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, Iowa, said the four-lane highway that traverses the two states will have a positive economic impact for both states.
“A lot of people are going down to Sioux City (Iowa) for retail, medical care … that’s also going to transfer to Minnesota,” said Johnson, adding that he’s looking forward to getting on Highway 60 and driving to the new sports stadiums in the Twin Cities.
“We’ve got a corridor here folks — this is where commerce happens,” Johnson said.