BROWN COUNTY - Work is scheduled to begin Monday to restore all 10.8 miles of former State Highway 258, which became Brown County Road 16 as of April 15.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) allotted $5.2 million to Brown County to restore the road to an acceptable condition, according to MnDOT. The project engineering estimate was $4,970,751. Three project bids came in at as much as 12.75 percent under estimate.
On April 16, Brown County commissioners approved a low bid of $4,337.149 from Central Specialties, Inc. Other bids were $4,358,886 from Knife River Corp. and $4,820,935 from Duininck Inc.
Brown County Administrator Chuck Enter said the county will incur some costs beyond the construction bid, but excess funds can be used for other county road projects.
The highway turnback project includes grading, storm sewer and surfacing work in Comfrey and cold in-place recycle, overlay and aggregate shouldering work in rural areas. The existing highway has many pavement cracks and needs rehabilitation, according to Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens.
Comfrey will construct water main and sanitary sewer work using city funds as part of the contract.
The highway is among several 200 series roads MnDOT is working to transfer to what it calls a property level of government, according to a statewide jurisdictional study.
Lower-volume roads, which are important to counties, have a difficult time competing for funds with high-volume highways, according to MnDOT.
The County Road 16 project includes regrading and replacing curb and gutter, storm sewer, gravel base, bituminous surfacing and route straightening at the south end of the road, located on the east side of Comfrey.
Comfrey Police Chief Jim Meyer said the road is particularly important to Comfrey residents and people who work there.
"It's important to maintain the road, especially for people who work out of town or drive to Comfrey to work, like school teachers," Meyer said. "It may be hard for the County to maintain the road during the winter months as MnDOT did."
Stevens said the county will not be able to use as much salt on the road as MnDOT did.
"There will be less bare pavement during parts of the winter," Stevens said. "There is a county highway garage in Comfrey that will give the new road top priority."
In his Requests for Brown County Board action for the project, Stevens wrote that the new straight road alignment in Comfrey allows Harvest Land Cooperative a two-bin expansion and is the safest design for transportation purposes.
Stevens wrote that other road alignments farther to the east do not gain as much setback as the straight alignment. The existing road intersection with Brown County Highway 17 is not at a 90-degree angle as the new project will be.
Comfrey Fire Chief Mark Warner, who lives on the road, said local residents and workers are concerned about the highway change. His property assessment from the project is more than $5,000.
"The State (MnDOT) did a lot of snow removal and maintenance work on the road, but that there is a county highway shop with a truck and blade," Warner said. "County roads are not maintained as well as state highways, due to funding."
Warner, who has lived on the road for 30 years, said one of the positive aspects of the turn-back project is making water, sewer, storm sewer, curb and gutter improvements on his property that has 110-feet of road frontage.
"There have been some waterline breaks in the past," Warner said. "This is the time to do the project."
He added that in the past, Comfrey First Responders and firefighters have been able to answer calls that require them to use the road and he hopes that won't change.
Mulligan Township farmer Alphonse Mathiowetz said parts of former Highway 258 are "terrible."
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).