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Celebrating after a long struggle

By Staff | Dec 6, 2013

It wasn’t the easiest project. It had its share of controversy, issues and problems.

There were those darn three new-fangled roundabout things. Why three? It had a late start way into June. There were those strange detours including a make-shift road past the liquor store. And some contaminated soil was discovered that delayed progress and added to the overall cost.

Those costs were surprisingly higher to the city, the county and to local property owners along the highway corridor than was first expected.

School bus routes were disrupted. Local drivers had a hard time getting from here to there. Out-of-town drivers couldn’t figure out how to get into town.

Nobody could find the Green Giant.

And, probably worse of all, many local businesses had a tough summer financially as their customers were forced to take some odd routes to get to their stores and restaurants.

But, we all survived.

And last Thursday afternoon there were nothing but smiles on faces that weren’t necessarily smiling most of the summer.

The Highway 169 reconstruction project through the city limits of Blue Earth was done, and folks were celebrating the fact with a ribbon cutting, open houses, special sales and a few brief speeches.

Everyone was very, very happy it was done.

Which, of course, it isn’t. There is still quite a bit of cleanup and landscaping yet to do. And some more overlay of asphalt on the north and south ends of the project. The rest of the project will be completed next spring.

That was always the plan complete it in two summers.

I have to give MnDOT and Ulland Brothers Construction a lot of credit. They never wavered all summer long with their response that the plan was to have Highway 169 back open to traffic by the end of the 2013 construction season.

They just made it but make it they did.

Now, even some of those harsh critics of the three roundabouts have admitted they are actually functional and even fun to drive around in. They are also rather attractive. In fact, the whole highway project has made the town better looking. There are new walkways, street lights, grassy areas and plantings.

Wait until next spring when everything greens up and the landscaping work is completely finished up.

As was stated in this column before, the work during the summer would be painful, but the end result would be quite nice.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of those driving circles and have vowed to avoid them at all costs.

Really, they are fairly simple to navigate through, once you try it a couple of times. Just go slow, watch out for oncoming traffic and circle around to the right.

Unless you travel to England, where you drive on the left and circle a roundabout clockwise to the left.

There are worse roundabouts than the three single lane ones on Highway 169 in Blue Earth. Near Oshkosh, Wis., for example, there are also three roundabouts but they are two-lane and are placed right in a row so you travel one to the next with little or no break in between.

The third one serves as the on ramp to Interstate 41.

Blue Earth’s three are pretty easy to get through in comparison.

And, these new roundabouts are becoming a marketing tool for the the city.

No longer are visitors stopping in just to see the giant green statue. Now they want to see the town with the three roundabouts.

The chamber of commerce is using them is various slogans, including last Thursday’s “Celebrating in a Roundabout Way.”

So, the roundabouts are here, the highway is open again, and everyone is happy it is over.

Next up, however, is a rebuild of two blocks of Main Street in downtown Blue Earth scheduled for the summer of 2015.

Fasten your seatbelts. Here we go again.