MANKATO — Members of the Blue Earth County Board aren’t at all sure they want to build the next big road to serve Mankato’s eastward expansion, but they’ve agreed to keep the option open by moving ahead with environmental reviews for a new road to fill the gap from where County Road 12 ends at County Road 17 (old Highway 14) and where County Road 41 begins at Highway 83.
With Highway 22 becoming increasingly congested as the city grows east of it, the new county highway would offer a parallel north-south route about a mile east of Highway 22. Blue Earth County Public Works Director Al Forsberg said the $7 million road makes sense, both to relieve the burden on Highway 22 and to provide access to new land for further economic development on Mankato’s east and southeast side.
“With this piece, we’d be set for years,” Forsberg said. “We would have land available.”
Board members agreed that the road would make traffic flow better on the east side, but they questioned whether it should be prioritized over maintenance projects and road improvements in rural parts of Blue Earth County.
“Farmers have some real transportation needs, too,” said Commissioner Will Purvis.
Commissioners are also worried that County Road 12, which has a new interchange with Highway 14 and will serve the planned Walmart distribution center, will become a preferred route for truckers looking to avoid Mankato traffic and stop lights.
If those truckers took the proposed County Road 12 extension only as far as Highway 83 before turning west and reconnecting with Highway 22 on Mankato’s south side, it wouldn’t be a problem. But board members are convinced the truckers would continue south on County Road 41 to County Road 90, which serves as a southern bypass of Mankato and connects with Highway 60/169 west of the city.
“It’s a straight shot and that’s where (trucks) are going to go,” said Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg, who said he’s heard concern from several residents along County Road 41. “... We don’t want to do that to our constituents. We don’t want to put that burden on them.”