MANKATO — City and county officials reached consensus Thursday that a roundabout, rather than a more limited intersection, is needed at Adams Street and Blue Earth County Road 12 before the region’s largest truck stop opens next year.
As many as 240 semi-trucks a day are predicted to be rolling through the intersection after the new truck stop is constructed.
City of Mankato leaders were willing to settle for stop signs on Adams Street and new left-turn lanes in preparation for the truck stop, waiting to add a more expensive roundabout as traffic levels rise higher in the future. City Manager Pat Hentges said that could be done for slightly more than $25,000 as part of a project extending Adams Street a bit farther to the east.
Blue Earth County officials deemed that intersection design unsafe.
County Public Works Director Ryan Thilges asked members of the Intergovernmental Committee, made up of a pair of elected officials from both the City Council and the County Board, to imagine scores of trucks making left turns each day onto a 55-mph county road — one where the median isn’t large enough to allow the 18-wheelers to stop after crossing half of the lanes.
“I still have significant concerns over the safety of the intersection (as proposed by the city), and I don’t want to see anybody get killed before we put a full intersection in,” Thilges said.
But the county also wasn’t offering to pay a portion of the cost of a roundabout — a design that’s expected to push the price tag to $1.2 million.
“A roundabout makes great good sense,” said Commissioner Colleen Landkamer. “The county doesn’t have it in its budget, but if the city put it in ... .”
Ultimately, Hentges and Council member Karen Foreman indicated they would recommend the full council agree to move ahead with a roundabout, using a tax abatement and street funding from the state to cover the expense.
For safety reasons, Foreman said she prefers adding the roundabout before the truck stop opens. And she pointed to the traffic disruption that would result if the intersection was closed in five years to add the roundabout then.
“It’s hard to visualize how we would reroute those trucks,” she said. “... Making the investment now makes sense to me.”
The city tax abatement will capture some of the additional taxes generated by the truck stop, another trucking business that’s also being planned near the intersection, and property that is expected to develop in the future. Hentges asked the county to consider approving a tax abatement with its share of the new property taxes being generated to help finance the roundabout. County Administrator Bob Meyer agreed to review the numbers.
Assistant City Engineer Michael McCarty said work will begin this fall to extend Adams Street and water/sewer utilities slightly to the east, past the street’s current terminus at County Road 12, which is where the new truck stop is to be built. A roundabout could be designed and put out for bids this winter with construction beginning in the spring and completion coming in July.
An aggressive construction schedule for the 10-acre truck stop would have had work beginning this fall with an opening as soon as next spring. The decision to add the roundabout will probably make that impossible.
“I think we’re talking of delays of a couple of months,” Hentges said.
But failure to reach agreement could have completely doomed the truck stop being developed by the Trifecta Group, led by Steven Freyberg. Financing for the project is dependent on the facility being appraised at a certain value, and an intersection that prohibits Adams Street drivers from turning left or crossing County Road 12 raised doubts in the mind of the project’s appraiser.
“That brings into question the viability of the project,” said Mankato Community Development Director Paul Vogel.
County and city officials both talked about the importance of the truck stop — in terms of economic development and as a facility to alleviate a documented shortage of resting spots for truckers in the Mankato area. Across County Road 12 to the west, Harrison Trucking is planning construction of a nearly 70,000-square-foot sales and service business on 24 acres north of Adams Street.
While details still need to be ironed out before the roundabout can be constructed, Commissioner Kip Bruender was optimistic the project will come to fruition — and that the city and county will avoid the intersection troubles that occurred at another east-side junction.
At Haefner Drive and County Road 17 (Madison Avenue), stop signs on Haefner, full turning movements in all directions and rising traffic levels resulted in numerous serious crashes before agreement was reached and a roundabout was added in September.
“I’m not on board (with the same approach at Adams and County Road 12), and I don’t think I ever will be,” Bruender said. “... Haefner is still too fresh on my brain.”