By Mark Fischenich
---- — MANKATO — Despite the soggy, cool and increasingly dark conditions, construction of Blue Earth County Road 17 between Mankato and Eagle Lake remains on schedule for reopening this month.
"We're making really good progress out there," county Public Works Director Al Forsberg said.
The road — which has been closed since spring for complete reconstruction, expansion on the west side and the addition of four roundabouts — will reopen for the winter months before construction is completed in 2014. Forsberg expects an announcement next week on the opening date for the west end of the project, where paving has been completed.
That section, from the Mankato Ford-Snell Motors area and heading to the east, still needs electrification of the street lights, striping and sign installation.
"The striping in particular is dependent on weather," Forsberg said.
The east end of the project at Eagle Lake will open two to three weeks after the western side reopens. Paving still needs to be done on the western edge of Eagle Lake, although Forsberg said the gravel base is in place. Along with paving, the to-do list on that end still includes establishing turf along the road edges, electrical work for the street lighting, striping and signs.
The two-year project might end up being closer to a year and a half because of good progress this year and because the Blue Earth County Board is expected to consider paying a premium to the contractor to accelerate the pace of construction in 2014.
"We've gotten more work done in 2013 than we anticipated," Forsberg said.
A quick pace in 2014, particularly on completing the four-lane expansion of Madison Avenue for another half-mile on the west end, will be crucial because that road will serve as a traffic alternative when Highway 22 is closed for roundabout construction next summer.
Along with the four-lane expansion on the west end and the new roundabouts, the County Road 17 project involves reconstruction of the center part of the road (which is old Highway 14), the transformation of the road in Eagle Lake into a municipal-style street with curb and gutter, and the addition of a bike trail between the two cities.