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Highway 61 planning revs up

Project organizers want to talk about work on Highway 61/Main Street with the public as much as possible, they told area residents, business professionals and public officials Monday evening.

Project manager Aaron Warford of Bolton & Menk said the team wants public conversation about changes and work on Highway 61 to be ongoing as they approach a 2015 construction goal. He said they are still working on studies, locating utilities and other preliminary work but wanted to hear from stakeholders early on to avoid conflicts in the future.

“A project like this, there’s a lot of interest,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone feels like they’ve been heard.”

The project from Old West Main Street to Potter Street started as simple paving work but evolved into a bigger overhaul, Warford said. Addressing utilities is a major issue, and the city also wanted to explore landscaping and pedestrian changes, such as bump-outs.

Then in June, the city was awarded $2.445 million from MnDOT for work on the highway.

The project will allow for replacing some aging infrastructure and utilities and addressing issues such as stormwater management, officials said. Some of the utilities underground date back to the 1800s, Public Works director Rick Moskwa said, and need to be replaced.

“This project presented that opportunity,” Moskwa said. 

Improving safety is also a key goal, along with making pedestrian access between the river and downtown and residential areas better. Crossing Highway 61 can be difficult for those who want to travel between the areas of town, Warford said. “It’s a significant barrier.”

Warford said work also will go into making the Highway 61 corridor more cohesive.

Planning Director Brian Peterson said the project fits in with the city’s Downtown Action Plan.

“We’ve got a lot of things in the works, and this is one of them,” Peterson said.

Monday’s public open house at the St. James Hotel was the first in a series, project organizers said. It was aimed at gathering input and comments before designs are drawn up, Warford said, so specifics weren’t ready yet.

Warford said there will be a lot of public involvement in the entire process. The next open house is planned for February or March and will include some concept plans for the project.

Preliminary design work will last until about April, Warford said. After going through other planning steps, including City Council approval, the goal is to complete construction in the 2015 season, he said.

Specifics coming

People have specific questions about detours, if and how their businesses or buildings will be affected, how long the project will take and other details, Warford said, but “we’re not there yet.” Those details should emerge as plans become solidified.

There are about 23,000 vehicles that travel on Highway 61 through Red Wing daily, Warford said.

There is other construction work planned in the area for the same season, so “it’s going to be a busy year around here in 2015,” said Chad Hanson of MnDOT.

Hanson said the teams will coordinate on timing and other issues.

Attendees at Monday’s meeting spent about an hour of the open house listening to a presentation about the Highway 61 project and sharing questions and comments. They were also encouraged to add notes to maps and plans for the area and share comments and suggestions with project organizers.

The project team is working with a group of community members and having individual conversations with property owners along with public meetings, they said.

Warford encouraged public participation and feedback each step of the way.

For more information on the project, including who to contact with questions or comments, visit


Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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