MANKATO — Highway 66, the primary road from Good Thunder to Mankato and a popular route for folks seeking a scenic drive, will undergo a major transformation under a $20 million plan to make the road safer and a bit faster starting as soon as next year.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation would finance the improvements to the road, which stretches more than 11 miles from Highway 169 in Mankato, past Mount Kato, over the Le Sueur River, under the Red Jacket Trestle and through a long, forested ravine before climbing into farmland as it heads into Good Thunder. After the road is upgraded, ownership — along with plowing duties and future maintenance responsibilities — would be turned over to Blue Earth County.
"The state is OK with the concept," County Engineer Al Forsberg told Blue Earth County commissioners Tuesday. "If the board is OK with the concept, the next step is working with MnDOT on an agreement."
The majority of the board indicated they support the project but first want to run the plan by landowners along the route — many of whom would lose a bit of property as the road is widened and straightened and a few of whom would see substantial changes to their farms and homesteads.
"I think we need to talk to some of these landowners before we send it to the state," said Commissioner Kip Bruender of Eagle Lake.
Commissioner Will Purvis of Vernon Center agreed. He and Bruender represent the bulk of rural Blue Earth County.
But while board members want to make sure property owners are informed and can share thoughts on the preliminary design, three of the five commissioners also suggested they like the improvements as proposed.
"If you're going to do it, you ought to do it right," said Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg of Mankato, supporting the purchase of some land on a tree farm just south of Mankato to soften some sharp curves where traffic accidents are common.