Highway 61 planning drives on
The preliminary stage of planning for the Highway 61/Main Street reconstruction project is wrapping up, but there’s still time for the public to weigh in.
Comments provided at a public open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the St. James Hotel will be considered as the city and Minnesota Department of Transportation finish this stage, Red Wing City Engineer Jay Owens said.
The public will have the chance to review and talk about plans that involve the layout — including turn lanes, closed and open accesses and other aspects — and discuss the construction timeline.
“We really encourage people to come and see where we’re at,” Owens said. “There’s still a lot ahead here.”
In the next stage, project organizers will get into the specifics, including detailed costs, a more final timeframe, landscaping and other details.
“We’ll really get into the nuts and bolts of it,” Owens said.
The project will go out for bidding in late January or early February, Owens said, and many details must be finalized by then. Construction is set to begin in spring of 2015.
One major issue that has yet to be decided is the timeframe for construction. Talk is still ongoing about whether the work will be a longer one-year project or shorter seasons over two years.
“A two-year construction timeframe might allow us to finish earlier in the year” and keep the area open for fall tourism and activities, Owens said.
The project organizers are considering including an option in the bidding to get plans for one- or two-year work, Owens said. “We can see where prices come in so we can make a decision based on our budget.”
While the planning continues, a group that includes members from the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce, Red Wing Downtown Main Street, Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Port Authority, city and other participants is hoping to help businesses make it through the project successfully.
“We are working to do everything that we can to support our businesses during the construction,” Jill Fanslow of DTMS said.
The group’s members have been researching and talking with other communities that have gone through similar projects, learning from their experiences.
They’re also focusing on communication efforts to let people know what’s going on with the project and that businesses are still open, and have hired Confluence Marketing to work on a marketing plan, Fanslow said.
The group is working with consulting firm Downtown Professionals as well, which specializes in areas going through projects like this, she said.
A roundtable workshop and discussion about surviving and thriving during construction is planned for Thursday at the Red Wing Ignite Building from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. or 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. One-on-one business consultations also have been offered, though all slots are full, Fanslow said.
The group is making plans for the future as well, such as hosting an open house for the community sometime this fall and looking into options for helping businesses financially.
The group also has been talking about the construction timeline, with mixed results from local businesses.
“The initial response for a two-year project was kind of a gut punch,” Fanslow said, but after looking into the details many businesses are open to the two-year project because it would mean shorter construction seasons each year.
Fanslow said while the project is major and will impact many businesses, the final result will be exciting and positive for downtown.