The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 11, 2013

County responds to County Road 17 project criticism

Critical east-side detours will be available when Highway 22 is shut down

MANKATO — At least one prominent business owner and some Mankato city officials are asking Blue Earth County to put its County Road 17 project on hold in 2014.

They are concerned that construction on the old Highway 14 between Mankato and Eagle Lake will be too disruptive when Highway 22 is shut down for the addition of roundabouts where the highway intersects with Madison Avenue and Adams Street.

"(County Road 17) is a critical artery," said Todd Snell, owner of Snell Motors. "Lack of planning on the county's behalf should not constitute a crisis on ours. And frankly it does."

Snell made his comments at a Mankato City Council meeting, and Councilman Mark Frost asked the council to encourage the county to keep County Road 17 open during the roundabout construction on Highway 22, even if it means not completing the county project in 2014 as planned. City Manager Pat Hentges suggested the road remain open when Highway 22 is closed at Adams and Madison Avenue with crews concentrating on utility work.

But Blue Earth County Engineer Al Forsberg said that's not feasible. Most of the utility work is done, and the contractor would probably be able to make a substantial financial claim against the county if the scheduled 2014 work is pushed back a year.

The County Road 17 project, priced at more than $10 million, also could see costs rise by hundreds of thousands of dollars simply through inflation if it was delayed to 2015, he said.

And Forsberg said critics are making false assumptions about the impact of the County Road 17 project on traffic flow next summer. County Road 17 (the old Highway 14 and the road that Madison Avenue becomes as it leaves Mankato) is on pace to temporarily open in November from Mankato to Eagle Lake, and it will stay open through the winter.

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