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Funding secured for 52/9 interchange

MnDOT announced Thursday it has approved a grant request by Goodhue County to help fund an overpass at the crash-prone intersection of Highway 52 and County Road 9. Red Wing also received funding for Highway 61.

The Corridor Investment Management Strategy, or CIMS, grant will contribute $250,000 to the estimated $8.9 million interchange south of Cannon Falls. The bulk of the funding will come from MnDOT's Safety and Mobility Interchange Program, as well as around $1.8 million from Goodhue County taxpayers.

"It's really good news," County Commissioner Jim Bryant said. "It's great to see everybody work together at all levels of government to get this done."

County Engineer Greg Isakson was informed of MnDOT's decision in a letter Tuesday.

"It was good to see," said Isakson, adding that the news was not surprising considering the level of interest shown in the project.

As the site of more than 80 crashes since 2000 -- including 11 T-bones resulting in serious or fatal injuries -- the Highway 52 and County Road 9 intersection has become one of Minnesota's most dangerous crossings.

State lawmakers, county commissioners and MnDOT officials have all labeled the intersection a top priority for public safety.

Those groups were called together at a meeting last month by Rep. John Kline to hammer out a long-term solution, eventually agreeing on a quadrant interchange design presented by MnDOT.

"This is what can happen when we roll up our sleeves and work together at the local, county, state and federal levels," said Kline in a statement Thursday.

Although not as comprehensive as the diamond interchange sought by the county, MnDOT's design incorporates an overpass for traffic on County Road 9, while also preventing drivers from turning left across both directions of Highway 52 -- the leading cause of crashes at the intersection.

The quadrant interchange is cheaper and will be constructed more quickly than a diamond interchange. It also could be converted relatively easily to a diamond in the future should funding become available.

CIMS is a $30 million MnDOT program to "improve quality of life, economic competitiveness and environmental health" in the state, according to the department's website.

Competition for the grants was tight. Only 10 projects were chosen out of an applicant pool of 45 asking for a combined total of around $100 million.

"These grants will help preserve our high quality of life and leave a legacy of a more competitive economy and healthier environment for generations to come," MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle said in a statement. "There are far more worthy projects than there is money to go around."

The county will be involved in the construction process, but MnDOT will be taking the lead to award the design-build contract by the end of the year, Isakson said. The project has a projected completion date sometime in the fall of 2014.

Red Wing will have 'more opportunities' for 61

Red Wing got a surprise when it received $2.445 million from the MnDOT program for work on Highway 61.

"We thought we had a good application, but it is very competitive," Planning Director Brian Peterson said.

The funds will allow Red Wing to do much more work than originally planned on the key highway and address some major issues, Engineering Director Ron Rosenthal said.

He said the city had some MnDOT funding for overlay work on the road, but this new money means the city has far more options.

Some of the sewer and water mains, for example, date back to the 1800s.

"Everything underground needs improvements," Rosenthal said.

The city can also look into some potential safety upgrades, such as bumpouts, audible pedestrian signals for the blind, medians and a bicycle lane.

"It gives us a lot more opportunities," Rosenthal said. "I think it's going to be a really good job."

The total project will cost about $5.390 million.

Rosenthal said there will be a public process to discuss the needs for Highway 61 as the project moves forward.

The grant requires the city to contract for the project by June 2015, Rosenthal said. Red Wing could face some timing issues because it also plans work on Levee Road in 2015.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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