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L-shaped piece of U.S. 59 could become the city of Worthington's jurisdiction

Regardless of who owns it, the road will need work, but what kind of work will likely depend on whose road it is.

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WORTHINGTON — The L-shaped chunk of U.S. 59 between Interstate 90 and Minnesota 60 could end up under the city of Worthington’s jurisdiction rather than the state’s, as talks about the future of the road continued a special Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Worthington City Council.

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The process of transferring responsibility for a road from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to another governmental entity is called “turnback,” and two MnDOT representatives presented information to the council and city staff about how that might work in Worthington.

The road under discussion begins as Humiston Avenue at its intersection with Interstate 90, heads south until it intersects with and becomes Oxford Street and then continues east, stopping just before the roundabout onto Minnesota 60.

Regardless of who owns it, the road needs work, but what kind of work will likely depend on whose road it is, explained Peter Engelmeyer, project manager with MnDOT’s District 7.

“Whenever MnDOT has a project come along, especially through cities or certain county roads, we look at the look and feel of the corridor,” he said. “And the public is best served for a roadway to be owned and maintained by the entity that can most efficiently and effectively own and operate that corridor.”

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For example, while MnDOT and the city of Worthington both remove snow from roads, MnDOT is set up to remove snow from highways and the city is set up to take snow from residential streets, with their curbs, driveways, mailboxes and alleyways.

In 2017 and 2018, MnDOT did a traffic study that showed 70% of the traffic on the L-shaped piece of U.S. 59 was fully internal, meaning that people in Worthington used the road to get somewhere else in Worthington — indicating a more local road than a state highway.

The plan is to reconstruct the east-west Oxford Street portion of the L, a project tentatively scheduled for 2027.

Whether the north-south Humiston Avenue piece is totally reconstructed or receives only a mill and overlay, however, will likely depend on whether it remains under MnDOT’s supervision or is turned back to the city of Worthington. Should it return to the city, it would likely be totally reconstructed, but if it remains a state highway, it would likely only get a mill and overlay. Either way, state funds would pay for the project.

The city would also get more decision-making power over what the road looks like if it had jurisdiction, though MnDOT would cooperate and maintain communication with Worthington either way, Engelmeyer said.

“MnDOT can’t make the city take a turnback, let me be clear about that,” said Lisa Bigham, MnDOT district state aid engineer. “It would have to be agreed to.”

Should the turnback occur, the city would be responsible for maintaining the road, meaning it will need to pay about $90,000 a year for the cost of an additional plow and city worker to drive it. The state would compensate the city with state aid funds for the turnback in perpetuity, for about $60,000 a year.

Engelmeyer said MnDOT would like a resolution from the city council in January or February on whether or not to pursue a turnback.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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