The long awaited reopening of Highway 169 was celebrated this past Saturday, Nov. 14 by the City of St. Peter, local residents and businesses that have been affected by the construction. The project, which began July 9, 2009 and detoured traffic off Minnesota Avenue from Highway 22 through Jefferson Street, was officially reopened last Tuesday, Nov. 17. The project was funded by $16 million of federal stimulus money and focused on increasing safety for pedestrians and drivers.
The main difference people will notice after the construction is the new median, which will be landscaped with trees and grass in some parts and with raised planters in other areas. The median will allow fewer left turns for northbound vehicles, but this will be the only significant difference in traffic. Pedestrian “bump-out” crosswalks at intersections between Walnut Street and Broadway Avenue will help walkers cross the highway more easily to access businesses on the other side of the highway. The project also included the replacement of sewage pipes, water mains and utility lines.
“It was very important that we were able to replace the utilities,” Community Development Director Russ Wille said. Some of the utility lines under the road were 40 to 45 years old, and in recent winters ruptured pipes required replacement. The construction replaced the sanitary sewer and created a new storm sewer. The sidewalks along the highway were also replaced, along with refurbished historical lighting and other amenities.
One major impact of the five month construction was the effect the road closing had on localbusinesses.
“It has been a long summer. A lot of businesses have been threatened,” Wille said. Many local businesses were forced to cut hours and even staff members, but none were forced to close permanently. In response to the strain, the City of St. Peter is offering a Construction Mitigation Micro Loan Program that will loan $3,000 or $6,000 at zero percent interest to local businesses.
The Discover 169 Festival was attended by many St. Peter community members, glad that the main route through town would again be opened and that detoured traffic through the city would be eased.
Local businesses are also breathing a sigh of relief. “It seems like it has been forever,” Wille said.
For more information on the project, check out the Minnesota Department of Transportation website.