Next summer’s biggest road project went to an open house Tuesday, giving about 60 people a peek at how County Road 17 — called Madison Avenue when it’s in Mankato — will look next fall.
The project turns County Road 17 into a four-lane road as far east as County Road 12. It also adds a trail along the entire route, adds a turning lane throughout the rural section and gives Eagle Lake’s commercial district a new look.
But the most eye-grabbing feature may be the four roundabouts, at each of the major rural intersections. A consultant recommended them because they reduce wait times and crashes, especially ones that cause injuries.
A Minnesota Department of Transportation briefing on roundabouts said they reduce wait times by “up to 89 percent.”
The project will cost an estimated $7 million, a bit more than the city’s $5.3 million makeover of Madison Avenue this year.
Attendee Todd Borchardt was more concerned about how long the road will be shut down in Eagle Lake. He co-owns Superior Wash, which has only one access, off County Road 17.
He said he can’t afford to be shut down very long, and he hopes the county will work with him to provide a good access. And a muddy road won’t work well, considering he’ll have customers leaving his car wash.
Requiring the contractor to finish a certain leg of the project quickly may raise its overall cost, though.
Borchardt also said he sees some positives in the project, and hopes it brings more businesses to Eagle Lake.
Eagle Lake City Administrator Sack Thongvanh said the project will give a facelift to the commercial district, especially with the addition of a trail on the north side of the road and a sidewalk on the south. They’ll also be adding trees along much of the road.
The widening of the road will require Blue Earth County to buy land or take it using eminent domain. It’s not yet clear if any houses will need to be moved or demolished.
Attendee Stacy Johnson, who owns land near the intersection of county roads 12 and 17, said the county bought land from him for a nearby project, and gave him a fair price.
“I think they do a great job,” he said.
The County Board had previously authorized the use of eminent domain for this project, on a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Drew Campbell voted “no” because he thought the authority to take land should come after the open house with residents.
“I thought maybe they were putting the cart before the horse,” he said.
The project is expected to be finished next fall.