Public offers input on Gateway Hwys. 14/15 aesthetics

NEW ULM – New Ulm Gateway 14/15 Open House participants ranked aesthetic design considerations at a Minnesota Highway Department (MnDOT) open house Thursday at the New Ulm Community Center.

If enough City of New Ulm funding is secured, bridges over Front Street, the Minnesota River and Highway 14/15 interchange could feature brick, limestone or a combination of the two. Most people favored the combination.

No MnDOT funds would be used for aesthetic design options, which range in cost from $35,000 to $345,000.

Other design options are a railing end shape, curved or stepped fence to rail transition shape on the Front Street bridge, median and intersection paving, plants and lighting, stone features, and a monument.

A conventional roundabout is proposed for the Front Street interchange. The Highway 14/15 interchange would feature two teardrop roundabouts, an overpass and turn lanes in all directions.

Roundabout landscaping options are trees along the ramp and a concrete divider band in the roundabout. The interchange could include an interpretive rest area with a bench, stamped concrete, interpretive signage and native grass.

A designated bicycle route runs the length of the project, with a crossing at the Front Street ramp.

The roundabout at the Front Street ramp was a sticking point for a number of local residents.

“I hate roundabouts. I can see them at the (Highway 14/15) interchange, but not at Front Street, where they’ll just create accidents,” said Tom Griebel who now works in a trucking company office, but drove semis and straight trucks for more than 20 years.

“I’m not a fan of roundabouts. We’ll see what happens,” said straight truck driver Martin Griebel. “A Front Street roundabout would slow you down too much.”

New Ulm trucker Dave Fleck echoed the Griebels’ feelings on roundabouts with a different roundabout location. “I’d rather see a roundabout at German Street than at Front Street,” Fleck said. “Lots of drivers will race from the Front Street roundabout to Broadway, more so than if there was a roundabout at German Street I think most truckers would agree.”

Next month, Visual Quality Team Members (VQM) will determine final design elements to add to final project plans. In May and June, MnDOT will request municipal improvement consent from the New Ulm City Council.

Construction staging workshops wold be held in August or September and in early 2017. Construction could begin in fall 2017, but most work would be done in 2018.

To comment on the project contact MnDOT Project Manager Zachary Tess at Zachary.Tess@state.mn.us, 507-304-6199 or visit www.dot.state.mn/d7/projects/14NewUlmtoNMankato

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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