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Minnesota 60 detour to stay through winter

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe A recent milk truck rollover resulted in a large quantity of milk being spilled into a field of standing water.

WORTHINGTON -- Between a wet spring and a long state government shutdown, the schedule for the Minnesota 60 project has taken some hits, which will force the detour to remain in place through the winter, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

"We've been reviewing the situation here and made some decisions," said MnDOT project engineer Bob Williams. "Basically we're going to leave traffic on the detour. It'll be there through the winter."

The detour takes drivers heading toward Iowa onto Nobles County 35, down County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 5 and onto CSAH 4.

"We've decided the best way to manage the project is to leave the traffic where it is, concentrating on grading work as much as possible this year," Williams stated. "Some may not happen until next spring, but between weather issues, a wet spring and the shutdown, that's the reality."

He referred to the extended detour as the "best bad option."

Residents living on the detour route are not happy, claiming semi trucks are zooming through the area, ignoring no-passing zones and speed limits.

One particularly dangerous area is the curve at 320th Street and Read Avenue, where cars and trucks have rolled over.

Last week, a tanker carrying a load of milk rolled and spilled its contents. Earlier this month, a tanker rolled in the same spot.

Friday evening, a car rolled around 5:30 p.m., and an hour later, a semi was stuck in the ditch just a short way away.

According to incident reports through the Nobles County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota State Patrol, there have been at least 11 crashes or rollovers at or near that section of road since the detour went into effect.

"Someone is going to get killed out here," said Paul Anderson, who lives along the bypass about a mile from where the rollovers have taken place. "Someone has got to do something to slow those trucks down."

The speed limit on the curve is 45 mph -- something some drivers on the route aren't heeding -- but Williams said he was told the driver of the milk tanker uses that route often and has driven it a number of times.

"The cars are decent, but the trucks are a problem," Anderson stated. "They are running up on people so you feel like you're being pushed down the road, honking their horns and using their jake brakes at 3 a.m."

Other residents in the area, Anderson said, are sick of the extra traffic and the trash that comes with it.

"We're picking up people's garbage," Anderson said. "Someone dumped a toilet at the end of my neighbor's driveway, and another lost his mailbox when it got hit."

Williams said MnDOT may add extra signage, but that doesn't mean people will obey it.

"We can only do so much to control a driver's behavior," he admitted. "At the end of the day, they are still responsible for their own actions."

The geometrics of the roadway have not changed, Williams said, and the curve is properly signed.

On U.S. 59 where the work is taking place, Judy Stevens, owner of Stevens' Llama-Tique, is mad.

"I'm ticked off about the whole thing -- there has been nothing but screwups," she stated. "I would love to sue them up one side and down the other."

The Stevens' driveway was changed, which caused their pasture to fill up with water.

The 300 animals at the farm had to wade through deep water to get to the slightest bit of grazing, and now that grass is gone.

The Stevens have had to resort to feeding the animals hay, she said.

"There was no way for the water to drain out of the pasture, so somebody came out with a backhoe and tore that part of the driveway up," she explained. "Then the water went out, and they came back and filled the driveway back in. My husband was out there with a shovel days later trying to get some of the water to drain."

When culverts were put in, Stevens said, no effort to smooth them over was made, and the road was filled with dips and dives.

Even with the barricades up, trucks were still coming through and getting stuck.

They have had several people stop and ask for directions -- some late at night or early in the morning.

"When they had all this rain, there were cars and trucks and vans coming from both directions that would go sailing right off into the mud," Stevens said.

The state also told the Stevens their land would be used as an easement to stockpile construction equipment.

"They are just ruining our lives -- we haven't had one second of peace," Stevens said. "Everything is a total mess, and it's absolute government rape, as far as I'm concerned."

Anderson is concerned that, after several serious accidents on the curve, more will take place.

"It used to be nice and peaceful here," he said.

Williams said with the number of projects included -- a large grading job by the rest stop, construction closer to town and the Union Pacific bridge replacement -- the best thing to do is keep the traffic on the detour so the project managers can focus on completing their tasks without trying to maintain traffic along the route.

"About $30 to $40 million of work has been affected, and there aren't any good effects from the shutdown," he stated. "We're just trying to do the best we can with the cards we've been dealt."