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City OKs detour change on Highway 169 project

By Staff | Jul 21, 2013

The short detour around the roundabout construction on the intersection of Highway 169 and County Road 40 is going to become a little longer.

Currently the traffic headed south into Blue Earth crosses over to one of the northbound Highway 169 lanes just north of that intersection, near Walmart and McDonald’s.

Both lanes of traffic then come close to the new roundabout area as they use County Road 40 as a detour, near the Blue Earth Area High School entrance.

The proposed detour will have a crossover a little further north on Highway 169.

Both north and southbound traffic will then enter Domes Drive, the street on the north side of the Blue Earth Wine and Spirits store and McDonald’s, turning south on Buccaneer Drive, which is the street between Lampert Lumber and McDonald’s.

Confused? So were members of the Blue Earth City Council for a while.

Two Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials were at the council meeting last Monday night to explain the plan and ask for the city’s blessing.

MnDOT project manager Susan Museus and MnDOT engineer Roland Sinn explained that it is being done as a concern for safety.

“Traffic is coming very close to where the construction is going to take place,” Museus says. “There are only some concrete barriers separating traffic and construction workers.”

There are other benefits, however, they explained.

One is that wider and longer vehicles, such as semi-trucks and farm machinery, were having difficulty making the current turning radius. They shouldn’t have problems with the new detour plan.

Plus, construction on the project should be able to move forward more quickly with the new plan, as construction can now happen on the entire intersection at one time instead of in stages.

Currently the work is about two weeks behind schedule, the council was told. This new detour could help crews catch up depending on the weather.

Members of the council had some concerns about the detour before giving their blessing.

One was how it would affect local businesses.

“I have checked with all three (Blue Earth Wine and Spirits, McDonald’s and Lampert),” Sinn told the council. “There were a couple of concerns but they are OK with the plan.”

Don Adams of Blue Earth Wine and Spirits was at the meeting and voiced his concern.

“We have two semi’s a week that make deliveries and have to back into our parking lot off Domes Drive,” he says. “That could be difficult with a lot of highway traffic there.”

The council suggested having either police officers or MnDOT staff there to halt traffic for the couple of minutes the trucks need.

Mayor Rick Scholtes also had a concern.

“Sometimes at noon hours cars are waiting on Buccaneer Drive to get into the McDonald’s drive-thru,” he says. “That could cause a problem with the extra highway traffic.”

Sinn agreed that would be a problem that will need to be dealt with.

Councilman John Gartzke wanted to know how long this detour will be in effect.

Sinn replied it will be for the duration of the construction of the project.