By Mark Fischenich
---- — MANKATO — Blue Earth County is draining every last drop from the 2013 construction season with the final work — a concrete pour on a tunnel carrying Minneopa Creek under County Road 69 — set to be done today or Thursday just as snow and bitter cold arrives in the region.
"So we're ready to close up for the wintertime — almost," Public Works Director Al Forsberg said Tuesday.
The contractor on the large County Road 17 reconstruction and expansion recently called it a season after continuing to work deep into the fall on the road between Mankato and Eagle Lake. The road reopened for the winter Nov. 21, but excavation and pipe-laying in the ditch continued as Mathiowetz Construction looked to get a jump on the second year of construction of the two-year project.
Work is slated to resume in April with the construction of a roundabout at Carver Road and the expansion of the County Road 17 to four lanes all the way to County Road 12. That work needs to be done by June 1 so that the road can serve as a detour option when Highway 22 is shut down south of Highway 14 for the construction of roundabouts at Adams Street and Madison Avenue.
The reopening of County Road 17 brought online two more roundabouts, but the public seems to be having more of a ho-hum response as the number in the immediate Mankato area approaches double digits.
"We've received no comments, so that's a good thing," said Forsberg during his end-of-season review of county projects for the County Board.
Commissioner Kip Bruender said he, too, hasn't heard any griping about the roundabout on the western edge of Eagle Lake.
The last county project to cross the finish line this construction season — the Minneopa Creek tunnel repairs near Minneopa Park — is slated to wrap up in the next day or two, which is fortunate because concrete can be hard to pour in sub-zero temperatures, Forsberg said. The National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures to drop to 6 degrees below zero Thursday night with high temperatures not reaching 7 degrees again until Sunday.
The county also has completed its bridge inspections for 2013, including city-owned spans. The inspections showed that 99.7 percent of rural bridges were compliant and 97.9 percent of city bridges.
"It's not perfect," Forsberg said, "but it's pretty good."