Paving over our city’s problems?

Published 9:33 am Friday, June 19, 2015

Rain showers on Wednesday afternoon interrupted the downtown Wind Down Wednesday activities. At about 6 p.m. Albert Lea experienced 1.61 inches of rain over a 45-minute period, sending vendors scattering. Five blocks away on South Broadway Avenue the rain produced a more disturbing effect for motorists and local businesses. While this brief downpour may have only been moderate, it was enough to cause flooding that covered all of South Broadway, Fifth Street, Newton and Virginia avenues.

Motorists on South Broadway encountered water deep enough to stall cars, which is a routine occurrence in this area. The flood frequently takes motorists by surprise as they attempt to drive through waters far deeper than they appear.

The problem stems from antiquated city storm drains that have no slope and thus retain standing flood water for most of the length of South Broadway. These storm drains quickly back up in heavy rains and in turn flood the storm drains going to Newton and Virginia avenues, thus creating flooding throughout the neighborhood.

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Unfortunately Albert Lea and MnDOT are about to embark on a multi-million dollar pavement overlay project that will beautify the streets and sidewalks while focusing on many aesthetic improvements around the Freeborn County building. Yet, unfortunately, none of these surface improvements will address the perpetual flooding issues faced by many business owners and residents on the south side of the city. The ancient storm drains along South Broadway will not be replaced as part of this project, thus ensuring floods for many years to come.  Instead, the city has decided to focus its underground drain replacement efforts on the downtown area, leaving many on the south side standing in water.

These flooding episodes stretch back many years and occur on average four to six times every year. The flooding on Wednesday resulted from a moderate rain, and heavier rain events have produced even more dramatic results in the past. In addition to property damage and frustrated stranded motorists, the flooding represents a safety risk on one of Albert Lea’s busiest roadways in and out of town to emergency vehicles and many others.

To the business owners on South Broadway, economic development means much more than a pavement overlay and decorative brick work on the streets near the Freeborn County courthouse.

Rather, it means repairing years of decay and neglect to city storm drains, without which there can be no business development.


Karl Milliron

Albert Lea