By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Minnesota’s roads scholars gave the summer highway construction lowdown on Wednesday;
This year, nearly 340 projects representing $1.1 billion in investment will be undertaken in the state with the Mankato region tabbed for about two dozen projects costing $78 million.
“This is going to be a very busy season for us. It’s a never-ending job. As pavements age, they need more work,” said Charlie Kremer, engineer for the Mankato-based south-central district of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
He said among the most significant regional projects include Highway 14/County Road 41 interchange construction in North Mankato, a Highway 68 bridge replacement over rail tracks in Mankato, and Highway 169 reconstruction and roundabout installations at Blue Earth.
The largest area project in terms of total cost is an $18.8 million construction of two additional lanes on Highway 60 from St. James to Butterfield.
MnDot Commissioner Charlie Zelle, during a statewide teleconference for media Wednesday, asked residents of affected communities to be patient with the obligatory inconveniences of summer road projects.
“These represent years of planning, so they should be of no surprise to the communities involved.”
He said the projects are critical to infrastructure maintenance, public safety and the state’s economy, and even more could be done if dollar challenges allowed.
“There’s more good ideas than there are available resources.”
The 2013 construction program includes work on 87 projects in the Twin Cities and 193 in greater Minnesota.
State officials also urged motorists to slow down in construction zones, where 22 fatalities have occurred in the past two years.