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Taking turns on BE street projects

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Dec 13, 2020

And now it’s my turn.

It was about the time that I moved to Blue Earth 13 years ago that the City Council started an aggressive plan for reconstructing the city’s streets ­- and the utilities underneath the pavement – a few blocks each year.

Streets like Fourth, Moore, East 10th, 11th, even Main Street itself, have all been redone. Recently a Sailor Street project was so large it was split into two, north and south, and completed over two summers.

Lately the city has started doing two large projects each year, like this current year of 2020 when the Sailor Street project and Leland Parkway work were both being done.

Leland, just like Main Street, were joint city/county projects. And just let me say now, Leland Parkway turned out real nice. It actually now lives up to its Parkway name.

But now it will be my turn.

This next summer the city is again doing two projects, one involving Hood, Third and Walnut streets, the other involving West 10th and South Nicollet streets. And, while my actual address is Main Street, the long part of my lot – and my garage and driveway – is on West 10th. Which means, of course, that my home is part of the street work area this coming summer.

All of the street projects over the past few years have had their own problems, of course. Homeowners are unable to drive to their residences, because their street is torn up most of the summer. Last summer having Leland closed was a major headache because businesses and some residents were cut off from the city and had to take long detours to get into Blue Earth.

But this 10th and Nicollet project has some unique aspects to it.

South Nicollet is basically one big long block that is the length of two regular city blocks and ends in a dead end cul-du-sac. That means, of course, there is just that one entrance, one way to get in and out. No side streets, no back alleys, no other way in or out. And, with two dozen or so homes on that street, well, you get the picture. It will be difficult for them, to say the least.

The engineers know that and are going to work with the contractor to try and keep some accessibility going all summer. They also plan to split the project, perhaps doing West 10th Street first, then tackling the South Nicollet area.

At last week’s public hearing, Nicollet residents were more concerned about access to their homes than they were about losing their unique center median with its grass strip and trees.

West 10th, especially the first block from Main to Nicollet, also has an issue. For what should be a quiet residential street, it is remarkably busy. I call it the southern gateway to the Nicollet Street Speedway. Let me explain that.

Vehicles coming north on Main Street turn onto West 10th and go one block, turn right on to Nicollet and then are able to zip along nine blocks to First Street, totally unimpeded by any stop signs. Likewise they can go south on Nicollet, to 10th, then back onto Main. They never had to stop and have totally avoided the downtown stop signs, traffic and having to slow down for cars backing out of parking spots.

So, that one block of 10th sees a lot of traffic. Cars, trucks, big trucks with trailers – even farm equipment and semis. Now, I know other residential streets, such as West First, East Seventh and 14th streets, see a huge amount of traffic, as well. But they are actually main arteries of the city and that traffic is expected. However, 10th is a surprise for its large traffic count.

Luckily the City Council recognized this issue and is going to “beef up” the pavement in that block because of the heavy traffic – both heavy in the amount of traffic and heavy as in the weight of some of the truck traffic.

Every one of these street projects have unique issues. On Hood Street, for instance the street is very narrow and homes were built very near the street, which resulted in small front yards. And those yards will get smaller with the street being made wider.

It will be the opposite on South Nicollet. Because the center median is being removed, and it will become a standard 36-foot wide street, those front yards will actually become larger, about 14 more feet of front yard to mow.

So, the city’s aggressive plan to reconstruct a number of blocks of streets each year continues. That’s good, because the poor condition of the streets all over Blue Earth has been one of the most noticeable things newcomers to the city – and long-time residents, too – notice.

And, it is not just the street surface. Most of the projects are chosen to be done because of the poor condition of the underground utilities, as well. Some of the infrastructure dates back to the 1940s and, well, it desperately needs to be replaced.

It’s a good plan by the city.

And now, in 2021, it is my turn.