Get ready for additional local road construction

Published 3:33 pm Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two highway projects in Freeborn County are tentatively scheduled to be constructed in 2009 with federal economic stimulus funds, while one is tentatively scheduled for 2010.

Interstate 90

The first, which involves the bituminous overlay on westbound Interstate 90 from Minnesota Highway 13 to Alden and then unbonded concrete overlay on Interstate 90 eastbound from Alden to Highway 13, would cover 12 miles in each direction.

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The improvements would not only benefit people from Freeborn County who drive on I-90, but also motorists passing through, said Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever.

“I think anybody who’s driven that portion of I-90 understands the need that’s out there on that particular stretch,” Kluever said.

Kristine Hernandez, public affairs coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said the I-90 project was originally scheduled for 2011 but got moved up two years.

While it is under construction, there will be ramp closures at the state Highway 109 and Highway 13 exits, and MnDOT will set up head-to-head traffic in the westbound lanes while contractors work on the eastbound lanes. Then it will switch when crews are working on the westbound lanes.

She estimated the cost for the project at $13.6 million. MnDOT will open bids March 13 with work tentatively scheduled to begin in May.

“That’s the nice thing about this economic recovery package,” Hernandez said. “We have five jobs scheduled on I-90 that wouldn’t have happened this year. It was a good thing because our interstate is more than 50 years old.”

County Road 46

Piggybacking on the I-90 project will tentatively be the overlay of County Road 46 from Lake Chapeau Road in Albert Lea to Freeborn County Road 6, which is 8.7 miles.

Kluever said this is a project Freeborn County Engineer Sue Miller worked diligently to obtain funds for.

“This is a project that needed to be done and probably would have gotten done at some point in time, but now it’s in a more timely fashion,” Kluever said. “It’s a direct big benefit for the residents of Freeborn County.”

Miller said she worked to submit the project starting in mid-December when there was talk of stimulus funds and about standards projects would need to follow to qualify for funds.

She worked to package the county’s project with MnDOT’s project on I-90 to try to save money for both parties, she said.

Bids for the County 46 project are also tentatively scheduled to be opened March 13. Like many county roads, it is considered a state-assist route. If the project comes to fruition, it would be under a MnDOT contract but would be run by Freeborn County. The estimated cost is $4 million.

Miller said obtaining funds for the project would be of great benefit to the county, as the project costs more than one year of the county’s entire construction budget. As a small county, she said, she looks for grants and other opportunities wherever she can.

“We were all very excited we were able to fold our plans in with MnDOT,” she said.

Minnesota Highway 13

Tentatively scheduled to be completed in 2010 is a project on state Highway 13, starting north of Interstate 90 to state Highway 30 near New Richland, Hernandez said.

It will cover almost 15 miles and will include culvert replacement, mill and overlay, turn lanes and guard rail, she said.

The estimated cost is $3.5 million.

Another project that will affect all of the counties in District 6 is the installation and replacement of various guardrails. Hernandez said the project will cover a span of 12 miles and will include 184 guardrails. It may also involve temporary lane closures.

“These are some very worthwhile projects,” state Sen. Dan Sparks said. “It’s even more important than ever to get these contractors to work.”

District 27A Rep. Robin Brown echoed those comments.

“I’m very pleased there will be stimulus money coming to the Albert Lea area,” Brown said. “I look forward to seeing these projects up and running.”

The translation of the project will mean more jobs for contractors and hopefully more for area businesses too, she said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation Web site, state projects were selected for the economic recovery funds based on the following criteria.

Project readiness: MnDOT’s top priority is to use the available funds, so it looked for projects that are ready to start, according to the site. A project’s readiness was assessed based on the status of criteria such as environmental review and percent of right of way purchased.

Consistency with performance-based needs: MnDOT is giving priority to projects with a demonstrated performance need so that it can meet its commitment to make a lasting transportation improvement, the site continued.

Statewide coverage: Because the intent of the economic stimulus bill is to create jobs statewide, MnDOT wanted to ensure that the program would do just that.

Balanced program: Using the entire capacity of Minnesota’s highway construction industry.

Project advancement: For projects to be funded with economic recovery funds, the projects have to be advanced within the State Transportation Improvement Program.

Minnesota is expected to receive more than $596 million for state and local highway and transit projects over the next two years as a result of the federal legislation, according to a news release. About 30 percent of the highway funds are available for local governments, with the remaining 70 percent for MnDOT projects.