Follow up: $20million for 1,200

After basking in  my 15 minutes of internet fame when my post hit the front page of Streetsblog, I was quickly shaken from my pedestal by pro-roaders, one of whom accused me of doing “no research” and “spewing bullshit.”

 I’ve come to address such concerns of “the haters” that I’ve encountered on the interwebs and to solidification to the argument that this project is over-engineered.

It seems to me that people believe that $20million for a rural road that dead ends in a small town isn’t that big of a waste and is an ok investment. Many people on both sites were citing agriculture as a main reason for having this road be improved to what the DOT has in mind.

I can only imagine the vast number of farm implements that utilize this route, whether long or short hauling. Large tractors and harvesting equipment require adequate access to be able to properly farm the surrounding land. This is the livelihood of many more people that just the listed population of the town proper.

Again, I am not a farmer on or near highway 66, but I cant imagine taking a small, windy, hilly road would be good for your farm equipment or be more efficient than driving a few extra miles to get to a main arterial with 4 lanes and a straighter path.This was just one of the arguments that I heard that was pro-road. Which I’ll take the time to say, I’m not anti-road,

I’m anti-spending20milliononaroadthatcarries1100people.

Below you can see some of the problems with taking this road for agriculture, the least of which being that the road ends in a residential neighborhood.

66 shots

I also have to call out that people are implying that the argument “how do you get goods to market” is valid in this case. What is this, 1910 where we eat what’s grown near us? 90% of the ag in this area is corn or soybeans and while, yes, we have a large processing plant and grain silos in the valley, it’s pretty inefficient to use Highway 66 to get there IF that’s the destination for your crop. However, I reached out to the county engineer and this is what he had to say:

It serves as a farm to market route for a very productive, large agricultural area.  Also has high crash rate and large maintenance cost due to slides and sediment.  The project would provide a, safe and efficient farm to market route and provide access to commercial, educational, cultural and recreation opportunities for our citizens.  It would remain a scenic route.  ADT is not the only indicator of a road’s utility. ie, is a thousand cars a day to a fast food restaurant as important as providing safe and efficient farm to market and citizen access? 

 

I don’t have sufficient information to comment on the safety issue.

I should be clear that I have no beef with our county engineer. I like him a lot and he’s been super helpful in me trying to get my pet project off the ground. In this instance, however, I find it really hard to believe that this route carries (over it’s life) $20m or above in ag products. Granted, I could be wrong because I know nothing about agriculture, but one of my co-workers who lives on 66 tells me that she’s rarely found herself stuck behind ag vehicles.

Moving on to other roads…

County Road 10, which runs out of Good Thunder is carrying about the same amount of traffic daily that Highway 66 does. The benefit to CR10 is that it runs west to highway 22 which then dumps you right in the sprawly commercial district of Mankato–the Mall, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc… A far more convenient route for any residents traveling out of or through Good Thunder as you’re probably coming to Mankato to go shopping. This is probably better in the long run anyway because 22 is under capacity right now. We should be looking to get the most out of our roads.

CR 10Highway 22 also connects you directly with Highway 14, a major player in the local economy and a very heavily traveled road. Which now begs a better question, why not invest the money into Highway 14?

I think it’s kind of a slap in the face to all the residents that live along 14 to give this money to such a minor road and not to give it to one of the deadliest highways in the state. YES. I KNOW. They got Corridors of Commerce funding, but still.

I was also confronted about the fact that the road had been damaged by floods over the past several years, including this last one. Seeing as how this years rain was a once in a 100 year rain, I think we can throw it out as an anomaly. The flood damage to the road almost exclusively happened in the 4 mile section of ravine-flanked road when you first get out of Mankato, not the long straight 8(ish) miles in corn fields that would carry the majority of agriculture traffic–ergo the argument that it’s flood damaged doesn’t really hold up because people are using it in it’s current state just fine. This all goes without saying that the entire cost of flood damage to Mankato’s infrastructure was about 5 million (in the major rain event.) Where are the priorities here?

The point more than anything is this, we don’t need this road to be upgraded to the tune of 20 million and the residents don’t want that. Nobody down here can really understand why this road is getting so much money. I drove the road and made a video about it which I’ll be posting later. After driving it there is no doubt in my mind that it needs upgrading, it is in really, really rough shape, definitely needs a repaving and probably some structural upgrades at some parts.

Here’s my pitch. More than anything this project is promoting more of the same. Minnesota seems to have this idea that it’s our right to be able to take whatever route we want to wherever we need to be. This project is indicative of that. There’s no reason that repaving and small structural upgrades would not suffice for this road. Most everyone in the area effected by the road would be able to get to Mankato (assuming that’s where they’re going) without having a giant inconvenience in their lives.

The time will come when we can’t keep up with all our liabilities (really that time is now) so why not hone in and focus our efforts and our money on our most productive infrastructure?

I’m afraid this road will be a liability that won’t be able to be kept up in the future.

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going forward.