Blue Earth celebrates highway re-opening

BLUE EARTH – A crowd packed the Public Safety Building in Blue Earth on Thursday, “Celebrating in a Roundabout Way” the re-opening of Highway 169.

After a ribbon-cutting, a transit bus offered rides up and down the 169 corridor, with dropoffs at nearly 20 businesses that stayed open after hours so the public could reacquaint themselves.

“It’s nice now it’s done, but it’s been a long time,” said Jason Farrow of Farrow’s Custom Cabinetry.

Even though the business does not rely on walk-in customers, some people had a difficult time getting to the store in the Ag Center, where Farrow keeps displays.

“We had people who could get to the back but not to the front,” said his wife, Mandy. “[They] called to say, ‘I’m here, but I can’t get in.'”

She was looking forward to being able to cross 169 more safely since the couple live on the east side with their two kids. The high school intersection was dangerous, Mandy said, because the speed limit was 55 mph and it was difficult to judge how fast vehicles were coming. The speed limit in the new roundabouts is 20 mph.

“It’s nice there’ll be a sidewalk and bike path so kids can get from the east to west side of town,” she said.

The construction crews impressed Nicki Miranowski, county executive director of USDA Farm Service Agency of Minnesota, and Deanna Pomije, district conservationist with National Resources Conservation Services, which are side by side in the Ag Center.

“They did a good job keeping us updated,” Miranowski said.

She would post the latest construction news so people would know the new routes to reach them.

“I think our producers we work with are glad it’s done. (They were always asking,) ‘How do we get to you?'” Miranowski said.

“They told us stories of how they got here,” said Pomije. “[They] parked at Don’s Fleet to get here. Luckily, most know where we are.”

Mark Maher, a member of the Blue Earth Area School Board, attended the ribbon cutting and then hosted refreshments with his wife, Lori, at their business, Blue Earth Monument, across from the Ag Center.

The couple do not believe they lost any business because of construction, but some customers faced some trials.

“Many stories of people getting lost and trying to find us,” Mark said. “We’d find a lot of people across the highway [in the Ag Center parking lot].”

“Or at the corn shed,” Lori added.

The couple are relieved the construction is complete, except for sidewalks.

“It’s nice peope don’t have any problem finding us any more,” Mark said. “And the roundabouts are nice. We knew it would be nice in the end, it’s just getting through it.”