MANKATO — The Blue Earth County Board on Tuesday implored state transportation officials to slow down and speed up when it comes to construction of two roundabouts on Highway 22 at Madison Avenue and Adams Street.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has been planning for more than a year to add the roundabouts at two of Mankato's busiest intersections during the 2014 construction season. The only questions remaining were the specifics of the construction scheduling and strategies for maintaining traffic flow and access to businesses.
But at Tuesday's County Board meeting, commissioners unanimously decided to ask MnDOT to delay the project until 2015 and use the extra time to develop plans for building a temporary road to allow traffic to easily flow to River Hills Mall and the Hilltop Hy-Vee shopping area. Waiting a year would also allow the county to complete its expansion of County Road 17 (old Highway 14) to four lanes for another half mile to the east, giving traffic a better detour option in 2015.
"To me, that's just good planning," said Commissioner Kip Bruender of Eagle Lake, who suggested the delay.
Other board members quickly agreed. Previously, the board had been focused on pushing MnDOT to make changes in how it would handle construction and traffic flow next summer. Those suggestions, which were included along with the request to delay the work a year, involved building a temporary road to replace Adams when it is closed and providing financial incentives to contractors to build the roundabouts in fewer than 16 weeks (even if it requires 16-hour days and weekend/holiday shifts).
Mankato city officials appear to also favor a temporary east-west road north of Adams and incentives to get the work done faster, according to County Engineer Al Forsberg, who expects the City Council to take up the issue at its next meeting Monday night. The specific resolution might not be identical, but the sentiment will, he predicted.