Lens on History

A view of the intersection of Highway 52 and Second Street Southwest in 1961. The underpass was dug at the spot where the cars are in the lower right hand corner. (HCOC Research Center and Archive)

Plans had called for Highway 52 to become a four- lane expressway running unencumbered along the west side of Rochester. When the citizens looked around, they wondered how it could be done.

The current intersection of Highway 52 and Second Street Southwest was stoplight-controlled. There was a filling station on three of the corners and a root beer stand on the fourth.

In the summer of 1961, the Minnesota Department of Highways started condemnation proceedings on a group of businesses at the intersection. After their removal, excavation began on a 30-foot deep hole that would become Rochester’s first and, so far, only subterranean underpass.

The bridge that would connect the east and west sides of Second Street Southwest began that autumn and continued through one of the coldest winters in years. By spring, cars were flowing from east to west, but traffic through the hole would take a little longer.

Lens on History is a weekly photo feature by Lee Hilgendorf, a volunteer at the History Center of Olmsted County.

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