MANKATO — The public comment window is closing on a state highway draft plan that spends an estimated $474.2 million in the Mankato region’s 13-county district through 2020.
The plan includes major work on Highway 169 between Mankato and St. Peter, two large roundabouts in Mankato and completes the expansion of Highway 60 to four lanes from Windom to St. James.
The biggest priority of the plan for this region appears to be Highway 14, which gets two new bridges in New Ulm and a four-lane expansion from North Mankato to Nicollet — $83.5 million in total.
Public hearings are planned for Monday in Mankato and elsewhere, giving residents of the state an opportunity to give their opinion on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s 20-year plan. The official comment period ends Wednesday.
The state has been taking public comment on the plan for many months, and they range from advice about specific projects to requests for MnDOT to take positions on various issues, said Ryan Wilson, the plan’s project manager.
“We have unsurprisingly gotten comments related to US-14 … We really get comments that range across the board,” he said.
The plan acknowledges it won’t please everybody, saying MnDOT will be “unable to make appreciable progress toward non-asset management goals.”
“Assets will continue to decline faster than they can be repaired or replaced,” the plan reads. “The investment mix is not well-aligned with the public’s preferences.”
This is largely because the department estimates it will have $18 billion to spend over the next 20 years, not nearly enough for the $30 billion it needs to meet its performance standards and other goals.
Indeed, most of the spending, at least in the Mankato region, will be on replacing bridges or repairing roads. Though the plan lists projects for seven years, only the first four years are commitments. Through 2017, the only non-maintenance projects in District 7 are as follows: roundabouts in Mankato, flood mitigation on Highways 22 and 169, a pedestrian and bicycling upgrade to the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Mankato and the four-lane expansion of Highway 60.