COURTLAND - While the meeting Thursday night at the Courtland Community Center was billed as an update on the progress in obtaining a Final Environmental Impact Statement, MnDOT District 7 officials proudly reported that the first construction segment, widening the Highway 14-15 bridge to four lanes at New Ulm, has been scheduled for 2018.
"And, if we could get the Highway 15 interchange built at the same time as the bridge, that would be dynamite," District 7's Highway 14 EIS project manager Peter Harff exulted.
However, his enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that, as District 7 Engineer Jim Swanson also reminded the nearly 100 attendees, "the rest [of the project from New Ulm to Nicollet County Highway 6, just west of North Mankato] does not have funding identified as yet."
Oh, and by the way, work on the expansion project's Final EIS should be finished by December 2010, Harff said.
While showing a graphic of what the 14-15 interchange would look like with swooping roadways breaking off around a single cloverleaf, "anything we can do to get the trucks up the [Highway 15] hill would be a benefit," Harff said.
As part of MnDOT's concern for preserving historic features, "the New Ulm spring site will remain [undisturbed] and the [proposed] Nicollet County Highway 37 interchange [design] still is in the works," he reported.
MnDOT is still taking suggestions as to use of the proposed Courtland interchange, as well as the Nicollet bypass access.
When Harff was asked what the expansion project would cost, "it is just a balancing act right now. I would say around $250 million in today's dollars. There is a range there like $200 million to $300 million, but when I come back and say we're going to do it, we'll probably be talking $500 million. He noted that just the bridge alone [in 2018 dollars] "would probably be about $5 million."
And, just in case people think nothing is being done on the North Mankato to New Ulm segment, Harff told the audience that "we're working on design of the Nicollet County Highway 6 interchange "so Nicollet County can go out and buy the land this fall."
Highway Engineer Marc Flygare (who will replace Harff as EIS project manager for nine months while Harff is on sabbatical leave) told the group to "just continue to live in your houses. We'll be coming out and will be meeting with people [to address concerns and get suggestions] as we go along."
In the meantime, to make Highway 14 safer, "we're putting in striped rumble strips, and we'll be putting out radar carts in various spots along the highway to remind motorists about the speed they're traveling at because I'm sure there will be some [exceeding the posted speed limit of 55 mph} that will be going faster than that," Flygare said.
Ron Larsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org