Onward and upward (copy)

This year's complete reconstruction of Cherry Street is the first of several downtown street reconstruction projects the city has included in its five-year construction plan.

MANKATO — More than $125 million in construction projects and equipment upgrades are planned for the next five years by the city of Mankato.

Street projects and sewer plant renovations make up the bulk of the spending in the city’s five-year Community Investment Plan. But it also includes improvements to neighborhood parks, an addition to Mankato’s network of trails and fixes to the pumping stations that keep the city dry during floods.

Mankatoans with opinions or questions about any of the projects, large and small, can bring either to a public open house Thursday.

“Anyone that’s interested in the major capital improvements that we’re doing,” said Deputy City Manager Alison Zelms.

There will be a short presentation providing an overview of the budget for people just generally interested in what city leaders are planning, Zelms said. There will also be numerous city staff from a variety of departments to answer questions one-on-one with residents affected by a planned street reconstruction or other project.

Accolades and criticisms from those attending will be passed on to the City Council before its annual bus tour the following week highlighting the components of the construction plan.

Streets and trails

Downtown drivers who enjoyed this year’s Cherry Street reconstruction project can take some consolation even when that project wraps up this fall. More downtown streets will be torn up in 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024.

Warren Street is set for reconstruction in two years, followed by Riverfront Drive (from Main Street to Madison Avenue), Second Street (from Plum to Madison), and Fourth Street (from Main to Madison) in ensuing years.

Next year, though, is reserved for Belle Avenue, streets in the Germania Park neighborhood, Glenview Avenue and Parkway Avenue. Installation of a $1.3 million roundabout at Pohl Road and Stadium Road is also slated for 2020.

In 2021, the plan calls for reconstruction of Gwynn Drive and the second phase of street work in Germania Park. That year will also bring the long-awaited intersection improvements at Riverfront Drive and Highway 14 ($5.7 million in roundabouts at the ramps connecting the highway to Riverfront).

The southern portion of a new trail along Stoltzman Road is slated for construction in 2021, as well, with the northern segment scheduled for 2023. Another trail project — the $650,000 replacement of a deteriorating bridge on the North Minnesota River Trail — is on the list for 2020 construction.

A fix for the morning traffic jam that shows up most school days near West High School is scheduled for 2021. Signal lights at the end of the off-ramp from southbound Highway 169 to Riverfront Drive will be reconfigured at a cost of $185,000 to allow for triple-left-turn lanes. Heavy morning traffic to West High School, the YMCA and downtown Mankato often causes off-ramp traffic to back up onto Highway 169, sometimes nearly to North Mankato.

In all, more than $53 million in proposed street spending is planned over the next five years.

City facilities

Spending on a variety of repairs and improvements to municipal buildings and infrastructure slightly exceeds the street spending — $54.3 million in the next five years.

That’s mainly because Mankato will be kicking off a major project to modernize the sewage treatment plant and expand its capacity. The $35.6 million for that project doesn’t include another $4.3 million in routine fixes for the plant.

Millions of dollars are also targeted at improvements to the city’s stormwater system and to municipal buildings such as the Intergovernmental Center and the Public Works Building. The latter work includes items homeowners could relate to — roof repairs, painting, new carpeting and air conditioner replacements.

Parks are to receive just under $3 million in repairs and improvements.

First up in 2020 are Alexander, Bienapfl, Erlandson, Highland, Sibley and Thomas parks.

The largest projects are at Highland, where $455,000 will be spent on new playground and fitness equipment, and $125,000 will be allocated to move the Elks Nature Center building to less flood-prone land at Rasmussen Woods Nature Area.

Four of the city’s pumping stations, key components of Mankato’s flood-control system, are scheduled for renovations and new equipment totaling nearly $1 million.

Sales tax projects

Of the $18.5 million in projects funded in part through the local sales tax, the airport represents the target of most of the money. The vast majority of that funding, however, will come through federal airport grants with sales tax dollars used only for the relatively small local contribution required by the feds.

The civic center is to receive more than $3 million, with much of it going for routine repairs such as replacement of roofs, ceilings, fixtures and furniture, carpeting and heating/air-conditioning/ventilation equipment. And downtown parking ramps are the focus of $1.2 million in repairs.

Sales tax dollars will also provide $650,000 for a new emergency communications system for the Department of Public Safety and other first-responders.

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