Highway 169 work proceeds

BLUE EARTH – Progress is being made on the roundabout near Blue Earth Area High School, but it could be another month before the Highway 169 intersection is open to the public.

Andy Erichson of Ulland Bros. Construction, general contractor on the job, discussed the project Wednesday during an informational meeting. The Minnesota Department of Transportation hosts the meetings on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at the Public Safety Building in Blue Earth.

Erichson said crews will pour concrete next week but it will be “at least three or four weeks” before traffic will be able to cross Highway 169 at County Road 44.

“Everyone gets excited when the concrete goes down,” but it’s got to cure before it can handle traffic, said Susan Museus, project supervisor for the Department of Transportation, which is overseeing construction.

When it does open, the roundabout will only be open east to west, just like the Seventh Street roundabout, Erichson said. Highway 169 as a whole will remain closed until the project is complete.

“We’re not going to be opening it in pieces,” Erichson said. “The whole road will be open at one time.”

Some people have questioned why the pipes laid out in the County Road 44 intersection are still exposed above the ground. Erichson said the pipes are where they are supposed to be.

“The whole road’s [going to be] higher,” Erichson said.

Seventh Street used to be a flat road; now the street angles up to the roundabout, which has a small hill in the center.

Museus said drivers should remember to always go right in a roundabout, even if it seems the long way around. She has seen people turn left because it was shorter to get where they wanted to go, but that heads them straight into oncoming traffic and is dangerous.

“It’s just a new thought process for people driving,” she said.

Another ongoing problem is the detours and trying to cut through areas that are not open to public traffic.

“People just don’t seem to want to follow the detour signs,” said Greg Young, a Faribault County commissioner.

Detour routes have been mapped out to get drivers to their destinations as quickly as possible on the streets best able to handle the heavier traffic. Not all streets in Blue Earth go through, some dead-end at the Blue Earth River or the railroad tracks. Other streets are not designed to handle heavier truck traffic or accommodate the turning needs of semis.