By Dan Linehan
MANKATO — After years of planning and eminent domain hearings, 2008 was the year Victory Drive got built.
While a ribbon cutting will wait until next summer, the mammoth intersection with Madison Avenue effectively caps a $25 million-plus project in the works for more than a decade.
After months of legal wrangling — and with more to come — Blue Earth County took possession of six private properties on May 1 and began work shortly afterward.
The resulting road has spawned development from Madison Avenue to County Road 22, and created a sort of Mankato beltway that for the first time provides easy access across Thompson Ravine.
Paul Vogel, Mankato’s community development director, said Victory Drive’s primary purpose isn’t to spur development, it’s to relieve traffic at the intersection of Highways 14 and 22.
He said that it was at one time the only way to cross Thompson Ravine, but Highway 14 isn’t for local traffic.
“To use federal highways for local traffic movement is not sound traffic management,” he said.
Still, Victory Drive has created a venue for new development and redevelopment.
Vogel says it’s not sprawl because much of the work is redevelopment drawn by the traffic.
And while it may be responsible for some sprawl north, Vogel said the development was targeted there because utilities were already installed en route to the Mankato Airport.
Victory Drive wasn’t completed until late November, about three weeks late.
Part of the delay was caused by the goal of keeping four lanes of Madison Avenue open during construction.
Most of the legal wrangling stemmed from disagreements about the value of private property. A three-member commission decided on what the county paid, a total of about $4.35 million.
The costliest parcel, Rasmussen College, was worth about $3.7 million. The college relocated, perhaps somewhat ironically, to a Victory Drive location that was possible because of the project.