Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 12, 1999

Highway work near Lester Prairie planned

Engineer Rick Kjonaas was at the County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday night in Winsted to discuss the street projects for this year and the current legislation that will affect dollars available for roads throughout the state.

Kjonaas began by announcing that March is the time for the annual update of the five-year plan. At this point the county is not following the approved plan for 1999.

Right now the county is 72 miles behind on overlay projects. "We need to do 18 miles a year to stay even," said Kjonaas. "The budget of $600,000 allows for only 10 or 12 miles."

County Road 3 will have four miles graded, with two of those miles being widened. Next year the black top will be added. Savings from the mild winter will help with construction, Kjonaas said.

The city of Glencoe has taken the lead in another project that was slated for the year 2001. It is a mile stretch of County Road 33 in Glencoe that has an $800,000 price tag for the county's portion.

Four miles of the Highway 261 turnback from Highway 7 through Lester Prairie will be worked on. This section is the second phase in the project which was taken over in 1994.

The cost for the county for this phase will be about $2.9 million with the balance for the total project coming from Lester Prairie. Kjonaas said they could reduce the outlay this year to $1.5 to $2 million by doing high quality grading and then adding the black top next year.

The city of Lester Prairie has its money and has begun the preparation work for its portion of the project. Kjonaas said the county needs to move forward in fairness to the city of Lester Prairie.

The money for the turnback project would be reimbursed by the state, but the county would have to foot the bill up front. It could be obtained by borrowing dollars allocated for next year from the state aid account which is at $24 million, Kjonaas said.

There also is legislation being looked at to put $15 million into the county turnback account. $200,000 of the project will be used for widening Highway 7 at the intersection with Highway 1 to include both right and left turn lanes. This money will be reimbursed immediately.

Kjonaas said the other money can come from borrowing from the reserved funds in the county.

McLeod County and Winsted applied for a grant with the (ATP) Area Transportation Partnership to finish old Highway 21, the section on the north end of Highway 1. This was to take place in 2002.

Kjonaas said the application did not make the cut but some of the recipients could not fulfill their projects in 2001 so the application was resurrected for a 2001 completion.

"This is a good shot in the arm for us," said Commissioner Sheldon Nies. "It shows cooperation."

At this point, Kjonaas recommended approval of a $400,000 contract with BRW Construction Engineering for the turnback project, the same company that handled the first phase of the project. The board approved the contract subject to the county attorney review.

Kjonaas handed out a list of bills being discussed in the House and/or Senate that affect the McLeod County transportation department.

One bill was lowering car license tab fees. The tab fee money goes to the Highway Transportation Distribution Fund and is distributed throughout the state. "If this bill is passed, it would cost McLeod County $300,000 per fiscal year," Kjonaas said.

Another bill being discussed gives 50 percent of the car sales tax to roads and transit. In the past this tax went to roads and transit, but it is now going into the state's general fund. "If the tab fees are lowered and this bill passes, we should be ok," Kjonaas said.

Kjonaas said a compromise is being looked at to increase the load limit for the dairy industry from a five ton limit to seven tons. The milk industry asked an exemption for milk trucks load weight because they are regulated to empty a tank once they hook up. Some of the large dairies tanks put the trucks over five tons.

"The roads won't stand up to it," Kjonaas said. "They will have to find a way to pay for these decisions."

Lenora Kubasch of Kubasch Excavating voiced a concern about the speed limit on highway 1 through Winsted where her business is located. She also voiced a concern about the semi trucks parking on the shoulders.

The board asked Kjonaas to respond. The state is the only agency that can set a speed limit, he said. They came out and did a study on that stretch of road about four or five years ago. Kjonaas recommended having the state come out in 2002, after all the work is done to do another study. The county is not involved in parking issues.

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