By Mark Fischenich
---- — MANKATO — For a county and a contractor needing to get a road expansion project done in a hurry, a weeklong rain could have been very bad news.
Blue Earth County Engineer Al Forsberg, though, said the County Road 17 project on Mankato's east side is still on pace to be completed by June 1 when it will become a key detour route for traffic diverted by the shutdown of Highway 22.
Mathiowetz Construction was able to put down the gravel base for the additional two lanes being added to County Road 17 (Madison Avenue as it heads east) before the recent multiple inches of rain began to fall.
"So we were able to to get up and out of the mud," Forsberg said.
The county is paying Mathiowetz a premium to get the west end of the road done much faster than originally called for in the contract to resurface the road from Mankato to Eagle Lake, expand it to four lanes from Mankato to County Road 12, build roundabouts at four intersections and add a bike trail. Completion of the road to County Road 12 is considered crucial to keeping traffic flowing when Highway 22 is shut down from south of Madison Avenue to north of Adams Street for construction of multi-lane roundabouts at those intersections.
Curb and gutter will be going in next from Mankato to County Road 12, followed by pavement on the additional lanes and roundabout construction at Carver Road. Mathiowetz's decision to try to get the west end done in its entirety means it will be open for good to County Road 12 starting in June and won't have to be closed again once the Highway 22 roundabouts are completed late in the summer.
"With any reasonable weather, we should be able to make it," Forsberg said.
The east end of County Road 17 will continue to be under construction after June 1.
While Highway 22 won't be shut down completely until June 1, work will begin in earnest May 12, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Lane restrictions on Highway 22 will begin then from Hoffman Road to Victory Drive north of Highway 14, followed by the complete closure of the highway on June 2 — assuming the west end of the County Road 17 project is finished.
May 12 also is the date for the official groundbreaking and open house, to be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Snell Motors. Area business owners, many of which were concerned that the detours and other construction delays would keep customers away, are making coupons available to the first 200 people attending the groundbreaking.
Sleepy Eye-based Mathiowetz also won the Highway 22 contract with a $7.1 million bid. Along with the roundabouts at Adams and Madison, the project will include replacing and repairing worn-out pavement and improving accessibility to trails.
Construction barrels are already in place beside Highway 22 in preparation for the looming lane closures, and crews were installing temporary signal lights at Adams Street and Haefner Drive. The lights are needed at that intersection, which serves the Hilltop Hy-Vee shopping area, because traffic volumes will increase dramatically there once Highway 22 shuts down.
A temporary road is also planned from Highway 22 through the Gander Mountain parking lot to provide access to that shopping area from the north.