Several area roads, bridges to get repairs

Published 12:30 pm Saturday, February 26, 2011

Guest Column: Senate Report, Dan Sparks

This month, I met with officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s District 6 office to get an update on some area road and bridge projects. Many of these routes are in serious disrepair, and I’m often asked what’s being done about these problems at the state level.

Dan Sparks

Thanks to a combination of federal funds, responsible budget management and other state revenue, Mn/DOT has been able to schedule construction and repair on some of these needed projects beginning as soon as this year. Below is a list of some of the major improvements you will start to see once the ground thaws this spring, as well as a few high-profile projects slated for completion in the near future.

First up is U.S. Highway 218 in Mower County from Interstate 90 to the Iowa border. This is a 12-mile stretch of road that I’ve received many, many calls about. This summer, it will receive bituminous mill and overlay to improve the condition of the road. The $4.1 million upgrade is scheduled to last from July to September, and the department expects daily lane closures to result while crews are working.

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Also scheduled this year is the stretch of Interstate 35 in Freeborn, Rice and Steele counties. That highway will receive Intelligent Transportation System devices at various locations between June and October of this year, and crews will begin clearing some trees along the route as soon as April. The transportation department doesn’t expect many traffic delays to result from this project, but the long-term impact will be improved safety and visibility.

The transportation department also has put a few projects on the schedule for future summers. Those include concrete repairs on Interstate 90 between Austin and Albert Lea, as well as re-pavement of Highways 69 and 65 in Freeborn County. Right now, these projects are not scheduled for this year, but I will continue working with local officials and Mn/DOT to encourage any possible acceleration of these projects.

There are several other projects that will be taking place throughout the area this summer. For instance, lights will be installed at multiple rural intersections throughout Mn/DOT District 6, which covers Southeast Minnesota. Signs will be updated, pedestrian ramps improved and pavement cracks will be sealed throughout the area.

It’s difficult to think about the construction season in the middle of winter but, undoubtedly, it will be here sooner than we think. I hope you find it helpful to have an idea of what projects lay ahead so you can adjust your travel and commuting plans accordingly.

On another topic, I was honored to be invited to a roundtable discussion on veterans’ issues organized by Congressman Tim Walz on Thursday. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend at the last minute — the Senate voted on a bill to streamline the state’s permitting process for businesses, and I needed to be present to vote on that legislation.

However, I understand the Congressman met with several area veterans to speak about important topics such as how to improve employment opportunities for military members and ease the transition into civilian life. In addition, they spoke about educational opportunities available to veterans – what programs exist and work well, and which need to be changed. The same conversation was held about other veterans’ services, such as health care and claims processing.

These are important discussions to have, and I’m very grateful for Congressman Walz’s leadership on the issue. As a veteran himself, he has a unique perspective and ability to bridge the gap between federal and state-supported veterans programs.

Please feel free to contact me about visiting the Capitol or any other issue at:; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.

Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the state senator for District 27.