State on fund search to upgrade highway’s rating

Photo by Fritz Busch Construction continues on the Nicollet CR 37-Highway 14 interchange east of the Minnesota River in New Ulm, one of numerous road projects discussed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation at the Brown County Board's Tuesday meeting.

NEW ULM — The Minnesota Department of Transportation is looking at what changes it may be able to do about upgrading the rating of TH 4 from Sleepy Eye to St. James to a all-year 10-ton road next year, the Brown County Board learned Tuesday.

Current plans are for a $17.5 million project for mill and overlay plus bridge work, but the vehicle traffic during the spring would be limited to 7 tons. The cost of reconstructing the road to hold 10 tons year-round is estimated to cost $45 million.

District 7 engineer Zak Tess said he met with Brown County engineer Wayne Stevens and the Watonwan County highway engineer to discuss the possibility of improving the state highway to 10 tons.

“We’re looking at the implications of alternatives” Tess told commissioners Tuesday. “We expect to get back with them again.”

Tess said more state highway project funding could be available by applying to the Corridors of Commerce program before the Nov. 30 deadline.

Other highway projects presented included the $83.5 million Highway 14 New Ulm to Nicollet four-lane expansion project scheduled to last until the fall of 2023.

The project includes new interchanges at CR 37 east of New Ulm and on a Courtland bypass plus an extension of CR 24 and realignment of CR 12, and replacing bridges, lighting and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance work.

Tess said summer project work included moving more than one million cubic feet of dirt and the start of bridge construction.

Other projects include:

• The $888k U.S. Highway 14 New Ulm spring roadside parking area just east of New Ulm, scheduled to be complete by Sept. 30. The roadside rest stop would be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places after project completion.

It was built by the National Youth Administration, a federal New Deal work relief program during the Great Depression.

Project work includes repairing a stone wall and parking lot with a new, curbed island and right in/right out access. Two picnic areas up the slope are being restored with a natural surface trail connecting them. A new, accessible picnic table will be added near the stone wall.

Plans do not include restoring the natural spring that was closed decades ago due to water contamination from a nearby mining operation.

• The $4 million TH 15 Madelia to Watonwan county line project including lighting at two intersections, culvert repairs, snow fence installation near CR 3 and bridge updates at TH 15/60 and over the railroad. Completion is set for Nov. 15.

• A $2.3 milion roundabout at Highway 14 and North Highland Avenue in New Ulm scheduled to be done in 2024.

• Several 2029 CHIP projects, including TH 68 from TH 15 just south of New Ulm to U.S. Highway 169 just west of Mankato and between Hanska and TH 15.

Commissioners unanimously approved a local bridge replacement program grant agreement and a resolution to use $634,000 in bridge bond funds for the bridge replacement project on CSAH 8 over the Minnesota River.

Other CSAH 8 bridge funding includes $3,175,000 in federal funds, $110,000 in Brown County State Aid funds and $49,000 in Renville County State Aid funds.

(Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.)


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