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Frustration with Hwy 52 construction plans aired

Fri, May 18th, 2007
Posted in Government

CHATFIELD - Representatives of county and city government in Fillmore County gathered May 15 at the Thurber Building in Chatfield to discuss the deteriorating condition of State Highway 52 from Fountain north to I-90.

Ron Ziegler, acting as community development coordinator for the city of Chatfield, had contacted Greg Paulson, MnDOT engineer, to find out what specific work was being planned to improve the condition of that stretch of highway. Paulson replied in a letter that the only work scheduled is a bituminous overlay from Fountain to Chatfield in 2009 and a bituminous overlay from Chatfield to I-90 in 2011. He agreed that a complete restructuring would be best, but with funding restrictions as they are, the eventual overlay is the only work budgeted. Paulson noted in his letter that the overlay is the only work in the twenty year plan for these sections of Hwy 52.

Ziegler credited Dan Christianson of F&M Community Bank as being the force behind the gathering. Christianson said that the idea behind the meeting was to get all people and communities that have a potential for benefit together. Fillmore County, Lanesboro, Preston, Chatfield, and Fountain were represented. Lanesboro City Clerk, Bobbi Torgerson asked that more city governments, including Mabel and Canton be brought to the table. Commissioner Randy Dahl suggested that public pressure can help bring attention to road deficiencies.

Commissioner Duane Bakke asked County Engineer John Grindeland how long the overlay would last. Grindeland said that the long range plan is until 2030. He said that without reconstruction the overlay will not last that long. Grindeland terms the overlay as a "maintenance band aid" as, in his opinion, the concrete cracks under the overlay will work their way up through the new surface.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud suggested that Olmsted County people need to be brought on board. Christianson stated that 52% of the people who work in Rochester live outside of Rochester. Rochester businesses should have an interest in this especially Mayo Clinic, IBM and the Chamber of Commerce.

John Grindeland stressed that plans will not change unless there is more funding for roads. The five cent gas tax increase now before the legislature was discussed. He suggested that people are tired of not getting anything (for roads) until the state gets a different governor. Grindeland contacts local representatives on a regular basis to lobby for more funds. He suggested that legislators from the western and northern parts of the state also should be contacted.

Duane Bakke asked what is our goal? Chuck Amunrud suggested that resolutions and letters should go to MnDOT to push for reconstruction. Bakke and Amunrud agreed that it is necessary to convince MnDOT of the need and not their place to determine how it will be funded. Amunrud worried that even if there is a five cent gas tax increase, the road may still not get fixed.

Sue Kestor, representative of the Southeast Minnesota Ambulance Association, brought attention to the especially dangerous area with a series of steep curves about six miles south of Chatfield (Nelson Hill). She spoke of complaints by patients in severe pain as they endure the rough road in an ambulance.

Chatfield Mayor Curt Sorenson noted that 9,000 plus cars use the road each day. He worried that pushing for reconstruction might cause no improvement for a longer period of time. Plans to reconstruct these sections of highway have been set back already from the late 1980's according to Christianson. Sorenson stated that the concrete underneath is still the old 1930 pavement. Duane Bakke proposed that it might be best to push for reconstruction of some of the dangerous areas and settle for the overlay for the rest. Christianson insisted that it is best to go for total reconstruction.

Ron Ziegler will draft a resolution to start the process. Amunrud asked that beside local governments passing joint resolutions that ambulance and fire associations and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce also be included.

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