The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 12, 2013

B.E. County may get its own Route 66

Rural road may get state turnback funds

Highway 66, the main road from Good Thunder to Mankato, may soon undergo a multi-million-dollar upgrade and then cease to exist as a state highway.

Blue Earth County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation are in discussions to have the highway’s ownership transferred to the county, but only after MnDOT pays to resurface, widen and improve both the safety and the design speeds of the 12-mile road.

“It everything falls into place, we’re hoping to have an agreement sometime before spring,” said Gordon Regenscheid, the state aid engineer for MnDOT’s Mankato-based District 7.

If the Blue Earth County Board signs off, a public meeting would then follow to answer the questions of Good Thunder residents and others that live along or use the highway.

“With construction soon to follow,” Regenscheid said.

Minnesota’s Route 66 doesn’t have quite the notoriety of U.S. 66 (which winds from Chicago to L.A., more than 2,000 miles all the way), made famous by a Nat King Cole tune. But scenery seekers do get their kicks on the local Highway 66 as they wind through the wooded valley from west Mankato past the Mount Kato ski area, over the Le Sueur River, under the Red Jacket Trestle and up the long tree-canopied ravine to the countryside east of Rapidan.

For folks in Good Thunder and other residents of south-central Blue Earth County, Highway 66 has been a narrow, sometimes unforgiving route to Mankato that deteriorated badly until a resurfacing a decade ago.

“It was in terrible shape,” said Good Thunder Mayor Robert Anderson, who said the road continues to need improvements even after the resurfacing. “It definitely needs to be upgraded.”

That’s an unlikely prospect under continuing state ownership. By state highway standards, Highway 66 is a low-volume road that doesn’t provide connections between other state highways.

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