Stretch of Highway 61 in Red Wing reconstructed

Hwy 61 in downtown Red Wing | Bye Bye Potholes
Courtesy of Red Wing Republican Eagle

The City of Red Wing and the State of Minnesota reconstructed a stretch of Highway 61 in downtown Red Wing in 2015 and 2016. Officials credit the unique partnership between the city, state and local business community, and pro-active communication with the residents and business owners for the project’s success.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) originally proposed a mill and overlay for the project, but city officials knew more work needed to be done. The sanitary sewer, storm sewer, and water lines below the highway had served the city for more than 100 years and needed replacing. Also, city leaders wanted to upgrade traffic signals, provide sidewalk bump outs for pedestrian safety, and build curb ramps allowing for handicap accessibility.

Stakeholders sat down and talked

The project’s two stakeholders sat down and talked about their shared interests in the corridor, said Project Engineer Cory Bienfang of Bolton & Menk. Those talks resulted in the state helping the city find additional funding sources. They also led to the development of a two-year construction plan, allowing the highway to remain open to traffic during construction.

MnDOT designed the pavement with an 8-inch doweled concrete road, after completing a cost-benefit analysis, said Bienfang. The reconstructed highway is 62-feet wide as it approaches downtown with four lanes of traffic and a center turn lane. In the downtown area, it’s 62-feet-wide, with two, 10-foot-wide parking lanes.

Bienfang said the biggest construction challenge was keeping the traffic flowing and getting the work done.

“We built the project in halves, building the south side first, keeping the north side open.  And then we built the north side, keeping the south side open,” said Bienfang.

“I’m extremely happy with how the project turned out,” said Red Wing City Engineer and Project Lead Jay Owens. The highway was reconstructed, the infrastructure was replaced, and the streetscape now includes LED lighting to save money.

Business community stepped up

Owens also credited the city’s transparency and the work of the local Chamber of Commerce for the project’s success. The business community really stepped up, said Owens.

Chamber Executive Director Patty Brown led a committee that included representatives from the city, state, Port Authority and the business community. The group met weekly to discuss project progress and address concerns raised by residents and business owners. Brown also raised around $100,000  to fund a “Lost Revenue Fund” available to small, locally-owned businesses.

Weekly construction updates via the city’s local television station, website, Facebook page, and local and state Twitter accounts, as well local newspaper stories kept the community informed.

The State of Minnesota and the City of Red Wing shared the project’s costs. The state contributed about $5.5 million. The City financed its portion using $5 million in bonds, $753,000 in municipal state aid and $873,000 from its general fund. The city also assessed property owners about $386,000.

Project Dates:

May 2015 – September 2016

Project details

  • Total cost: $12.6 million, including design, engineering, land acquisition and construction costs.
  • Concrete depth: 8 inches on 8 inches of Class 6 Aggregate base and 12 inches of select granular sub base.
  • Total project length: 0.95 miles
  • Total Concrete Placed: 7,847 CY, including concrete used for pavement, curb and gutter; another 1,327 CY for driveways and sidewalks.


Owner: Minnesota Department of Transportation

Project Lead: Jay Owens, Red Wing City Engineer

Project Manager: Aaron Warford, Bolton & Menk, Burnsville

Engineer: Cory Bienfang, Bolton & Menk, Mankato

Prime Contractor: Meyer Contracting, Maple Grove, MN

Concrete subcontractor: Doyle Conner, Rochester, MN

Concrete Supplier: Cemstone, Hastings, MN and Red Wing, MN

Download the Case Study.


Nicollet County roundabout eases traffic, ensures safe access to high school

A new Nicollet County concrete roundabout eases traffic on Broadway Street (CSAH 5) in Peter, Minn. The impetus for the project was the construction of a modern, new St. Peter High School on this street at the edge of downtown. The school opened in September 2017.

The highway has heavy truck traffic, and the speed limit is 45 mph from the east and 55 mph from the west. The county worked with the St. Peter School District and the City of St. Peter on how to slow down the traffic and allow safe access to the school.

“Speed was a real concern, especially since we have young drivers and quite a few students who walk and bike to school,” said Nicollet County Engineer Seth Greenwood. “Rather than having traffic going 55 mph, we had to consider how to get that to slow down.”

Roundabout eases traffic yet keeps it flowing

When the school district held public open houses in 2016 to talk about the bond referendum for the new high school, county representatives were there to describe the roundabout solution. A feature of the roundabout design is long, curved medians that force drivers to reduce their speed.

“We’ve heard positive feedback from residents and it seems to be working extremely well,” Greenwood said.

A related project involved a township gravel road that leads up to the roundabout from the south. The township and city received local road improvement funds and replaced the gravel with bituminous at the same time the roundabout was constructed.


The 1.14-mile CSAH 5 project stretches from 361st Avenue to Sunrise Drive. The entire project was paved with 7-inch, doweled concrete for long-term performance of the pavement.

Broadway Street on the west side of the project was already paved with concrete. The urban side was paved with 25-year-old bituminous that was in tough shape. The county milled that out and replaced it with concrete. Also, it rehabilitated some curb and gutter, updated ADA ramps, and performed soil correction in the roundabout area.


$3 million: The county paid $2.1 million, and the city and school district put in $900,000.


May 2017 – August 2017.  They had to finish before the new high school opened right after Labor Day.


Owner: Nicollet County • Project designer: Stonebrooke, Burnsville • Contractor: Mathiowetz, Sleepy Eye • Subcontractor: Hoffman Concrete, Mankato • Ready mix producer: Cemstone

Check out a different 2017 St. Peter case study: Broadway Street reconstruction project.

Legislature slows Duluth plan to fix the city’s streets

Not so fast, Duluth.

Despite voter approval, state lawmakers failed to ratify a ½-percent sales tax in the Duluth to fix the city’s streets. The city projected generating $7 million annually through the local sales tax hike.

All that was needed to impose the tax was a ‘thumbs up’ from the Legislature. The plan required no state money.

Duluth mayor disheartened

Reacting to the legislative inaction, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson who spearheaded the sales-tax-for-streets idea told the Duluth News Tribune she was disheartened. “It’s frustrating to have such a clear message sent by the electorate and to not have that honored.”

She’s not the only one disappointed.

The News Tribune Editorial Board called the Legislative inaction “a massive failure.”  The Star Tribune Editorial Board warned that the legislative inaction “will fuel a growing sense among Minnesota local governments that state government is no longer a reliable partner.” 

This issue isn’t dead. Larson intends to bring her city’s request to authorize the voter-approved local sales tax back to the Legislature in 2019.

And, don’t count her out. As reported in an earlier Bye Bye Potholes blog post, Don Ness, a friend and former mayor, said earlier this year: “She’s a young woman and she’s just getting started. The sky’s the limit.”


Sunset Street project in Albert Lea includes new sidewalk

PHOTO CREDIT: City of Albert Lea

The City of Albert Lea completed a $1.74 million concrete street and utility reconstruction project on Sunset Street from Highway 13 to Lakeview Boulevard in 2017. The upgrade included replacing the street itself, curb and gutter and the aging infrastructure under the street.

City officials estimated the age of the water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer lines to be between 80- and 90-years-old.

To provide walkers a safer way to access Fountain Lake, the city also installed a 5-foot-wide concrete sidewalk on the north side of the street. That required narrowing the street and shifting it within the existing street right of way. The completed 34-foot-wide street also included two 12-foot-wide driving lanes and one, 8-foot parking lane on the south side of the street and a 2- foot buffer on the north side of the street.

Subsoil impacted selection of concrete

Like the nearby Lakeview Boulevard street project completed two years earlier, City Engineer Steven Jahnke said concrete was chosen because of the poor subsoil.

Most of the Sunset Street project $1.74 million costs were paid with Municipal State Aid Street funds. The city assessed property owners along the route $324,000. The city contributed $190,000 from its sanitary sewer enterprise fund and $284,000 from its water enterprise fund.

Project Dates:

June 2017 – October 2017

Project details

  • Total cost: $1.74 million; with construction costs totaling about $1.48 million
  • Concrete depth: 8 inches on 8 inches of Class 5 Aggregate sub base and 12 inches of Class 3 select granular sub base
  • Total project length: 0.4 miles
  • Total Concrete Placed: 2,039 CY (1,614 CY for the street, 290 CY for curb and gutter and 135 CY for the sidewalk.)


Owner: City of Albert Lea

Project Engineers: Bolton & Menk, Mankato

Prime Contractor: Quam Construction, Willmar

Concrete contractor: Hoffman Concrete, Mankato

Concrete Supplier: Croell, Inc, Albert Lea

Download the Case Study.

Video: How do potholes form in asphalt

How do potholes form | Bye Bye Potholes

Potholes form in asphalt, not concrete

A common question for drivers everywhere in the U.S. is “How do potholes form?” If you live in a cold climate, we’ll hear about the freeze/thaw cycle that breaks down asphalt pavement. Check out the video below. It was created by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in a state with a cold climate indeed. What this video doesn’t address is how potholes form in hot climate states, like Texas, Louisiana and the like. Indeed, there are potholes there as well!

Asphalt is a flexible pavement and more likely to break down and form potholes. Concrete, on the other hands, is a rigid pavement and doesn’t break down into potholes. It cracks, but you rarely see a hole in concrete pavement. So how do potholes form? You can choose to watch the video or read the video transcript below.


Pothole video transcript:

Here’s a cross-section of a typical pavement. The weight of each vehicle bends the pavement slightly. Small cracks form, first on the bottom of the asphalt because that gets stretched the most. As the asphalt is fatigued, cracks also form on the top surface.

Now, water on the pavement from rain or melted snow gets into the cracks. When the temperature drops, the water freezes and expands making the cracks deeper and wider. With more precipitation, more freeze-thaw cycles, and the continued vehicle loading, sooner or later the cracks go all the way through the pavement.

Now, water can get underneath the surface. When this subsurface water freezes and expands, it pushes the pavement up and weakens it even more. When the ice melts and contracts, it leaves a space, so we have a weakened pavement layer over a cavity. All that’s needed now is a good-sized vehicle, and there’s your pothole.

Source: Minnesota Department of Transportation

You might want to check out Minnesota cities that are choosing to end potholes on their streets. Click on “Cities in Action” in the right-hand column to read about their projects.

This post was first published in May of 2015.