Waseca County Sheriff Brad Milbrath’s mild mannerism couldn’t mask the realities of what lies ahead for the area motorists this spring and summer.
Detours lie ahead.
While the two-year, $22.5 million reconstruction project through the heart of Waseca begins in earnest on Monday, Milbrath reminded county officials at Tuesday’s work session that the Hwy. 13 detour is scheduled to sidetrack vehicles starting April 30.
The Hwy. 13 closure is a $3.9 million project which the Minnesota Department of Transportation says is expected to run shut down the 13-mile stretch of roadway from New Richland north to Waseca from April 30 through July 27. But due to major reconstruction work on two bridges, Milbrath indicated that end date could possibly stretch deeper into the summer.
There’s hope from both county and MnDOT officials that weather will cooperate with construction crews in order to avoid prolonging that Hwy. 13 detour into two major summer events in Waseca: the city’s sesquicentennial Labor Day weekend and the annual Marching Classic later in September.
The official Hwy. 13 detour will turn that 13-mile trip between New Richland and Waseca into a 37-mile detour, with motorists asked to travel east on Hwy. 30 to Interstate 35W, then north to Hwy. 14, and west back to Waseca.
MnDOT officials report that the Hwy. 13 reconstruction project will also include resurfacing, improved shoulders, better drainage and safety improvements.
Milbrath also issued a caution to township residents during that detour period because motorists often utilize alternative routes between the two cities, which will mean heavier traffic loads on many Waseca County roads.
In regard to the Elm Avenue work, city and project engineers last fall said about 60 percent of the work had been completed; but local residents will face one more year of city road closures and local detours. And the project, slated to begin Monday, could be sidetracked if a weekend snowstorm materializes.
The Waseca County Sheriff’s Office this week touched on what is likely a common frustration of many residents:
“With deep frustration, we must notify you that there is a chance for some snow in the near future,” the department’s Facebook page stated. “Focusing on the positive side of things, it appears that Waseca County could get by with very little snow accumulation. If anyone can help bring warm weather, we sure would appreciate it...”
And the department’s social media alerts took it a step farther early Thursday morning, issuing a link to the National Weather Service’s announcement that a “significant winter storm (is) possible Friday afternoon through Saturday evening.”
The weather service reported that up to 15 inches of snow could hit parts of Minnesota, most likely across central and west central portions of the state. To make matters worse, strong winds gusting between 40 and 50 mph could result in blizzard conditions, particularly in western Minnesota.
In the Waseca County area, a mix of rain and snow could result in icy road conditions. The service predicted 3 to 6 inches of snow possible in southern Minnesota.
The city of Waseca also sent out a caution and reminder to area residents:
“It looks like we’re in for another record of accumulating snow Sunday-Monday. Please remember to move your vehicles from city streets to allow the plows to work. A snow emergency is automatically declared when we receive 3 inches of snow.”
To compound an already extended winter of difficult driving conditions, Waseca County snowplows also went out early Monday morning due to “icy and snow-covered roads.” Motorists also had to deal with dense fog in many areas.