EAGLE LAKE — One of the largest road projects ever in Blue Earth County is nearing the construction phase.
The upgrade of County Road 17 is expected to cost more than $11.4 million, will extend Madison Avenue as a four-lane street a half-mile farther to the east, will add a quartet of roundabouts to the former Highway 14, is expected to promote economic expansion on the city’s east side, will add a bike trail between Mankato and Eagle Lake and will transform Eagle Lake’s main drag into an urban street. The project should begin by the end of next month.
The Eagle Lake City Council gave final approval for the project this week and the Mankato City Council is expected to do the same Monday, which are the final steps before Blue Earth County settles on a contractor.
“It’s the single biggest, most complicated project the county has done,” said County Engineer Al Forsberg.
Other larger highway upgrades and expansions, such as the Victory Drive extension last decade and the creation of County Road 90 south of Mankato in the 1990s, were done in phases over several years. The four-mile County Road 17 project is being built under a single contract, although its completion will likely stretch into 2014 barring a nearly perfect construction season in 2013 and the absence of any delays in dealing with utility lines.
The route impacts three natural gas transmission lines, power lines and fiber optic cables, which requires coordinated work with various utility companies and can cause problems for an aggressive construction schedule, Forsberg said. Work on the east and west end of the projects will be done first with the middle section waiting until next year unless work is running ahead of schedule.
“Everything will have to fall in place,” he said.
Sections of the road will be closed to everything but local traffic when construction is under way.