MANKATO — A Belgrade Avenue roundabout, a pedestrian bridge at Hawley Street, and reworked intersections at North River Lane and Webster Avenue were among the Highway 169 corridor projects proposed during a virtual meeting Thursday.
Area residents have through Oct. 28 to submit final feedback on those proposals and others along the Highway 169 corridor. The design changes will be included in a nearly complete study undertaken by the Mankato/North Mankato Area Planning Organization, or MAPO, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Final feedback collected Thursday and over the next two weeks or so could factor into the study, on track to be finalized in November.
“We are at a critical point in the corridor study where your input is really important to us as we wrap up the study,” said Ronda Allis, MnDOT’s District 7 planning director. “ ... What we learned through this study will really help inform MnDOT of the type of fix we will do along this corridor.”
She noted MnDOT has about $37 million lined up for projects in the corridor in 2027.
The study focused on a nine-mile stretch through Mankato, North Mankato and South Bend Township from Lake Street north of the Highway 14 intersection to Highway 60. Thursday’s meeting came after MAPO and MnDOT also collected feedback over the summer on possible design changes.
Most of the proposals would be gradually implemented over the course of a decade or longer.
One of the nearest term, and smaller recommendations, would bring a short-term traditional signal to the eastbound exit ramp at the Highway 14 interchange. The estimated cost would be $500,000.
Mid-term improvements, meaning 2026 to 2030 construction timelines, in the same northern portion of the corridor would bring either roundabouts or signal intersections at North River Lane and Webster Avenue.
“We’re leaving a little bit of flexibility in there,” said Angie Bersaw, principal transportation planner with Bolton & Menk, during a presentation. “There does seem to be agency support for either of those options.”
The preliminary study results didn’t recommend a freeway concept, which would’ve included a full cloverleaf at the Highway 14 interchange. The idea didn’t get enough local support, and it would require access closures at Webster Avenue and Lake Street.
For the middle portion of the corridor, which includes Riverfront Drive and the Veterans Memorial Bridge, the preliminary study found a roundabout concept for Belgrade Avenue could improve traffic flow onto the avenue and Highway 169. The downside is the cost, however, at an estimated $2 million.
Other middle portion improvements included adding a right turn lane onto Highway 169 from Riverfront Drive in west Mankato and tightening nearby pedestrian crossings.
A reworked Highway 68 intersection was among the preliminary study’s recommendations for the southern portion of the corridor. A projected $32.8 million project in 2030 would convert the intersection into what’s called a “high T” design.
The design would have westbound traffic on 169 cross the intersection by driving over an underpass of sorts. Traffic from 68 would use the underpass to enter the eastbound lane of 169.
A pedestrian bridge across the 169 and Hawley Street intersection could come sooner. The preliminary study listed the cost at $5 million.
About two years’ worth of input went into the preliminary study, which aimed to find ways to make the highway corridor more usable and safe for motorists, bikers and walkers.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Charles Androsky, a transportation planner for MAPO. “But this piece of the process has been a good example of collaboration between our local governments here, the public, property owners, businesses and other stakeholders.”
Local business owner Jo Guck Bailey asked about how firm the proposed projects are, noting developers are waiting on what the corridor could look like before making decisions.
Bersaw responded by saying the study results could be used as a guide for future development. The projects may not look exactly like what the study proposes, but the results will end up setting the general parameters for future improvements along the corridor.
Once completed in November, results will be presented to city councils and local boards in early 2022. To view all the recommendations outlined Thursday, visit www.hwy169corridorstudy.com.