AUSTIN EDITION U.S. 52 tag $16.5 million

By Jeffrey Pieters

The city of Rochester will pay up to $16.5 million to help the state build and maintain improvements on U.S. 52, according to terms of a preliminary cost-sharing agreement the city council approved Monday.

The council voted 5-1 to approve the agreement. Mack Evans voted against the measure, saying he disagreed with some elements of the plan.

The council will vote on a final version of the agreement after the state finishes revising project cost estimates.


Overall, the U.S. 52 project will cost an estimated $212.8 million. The project will remake nine miles of highway through Rochester, from 65th Street Northwest to U.S. 63 South.

During initial project planning, city leaders planned to contribute $10 million for the project. In January, city leaders learned that because the estimated project cost had increased, $100 million at first, their share also had risen, to between $23 million and $25 million. City leaders said they didn't have the money to contribute that much.

City-state negotiations resulted in the $16.5 million compromise.

The city will pay its share using money from three sources: $9.9 million from sales tax receipts, $3 million from federal grants and up to $3.6 million from the city's sewer and water fund.

Money from the sewer and water fund will be used to pay the city's share of relocating city sewer and water lines -- an; amount that very likely will wind up costing less than $3.6 million, said Public Works Director Richard Freese.

"Hopefully, it will be less than a $1 million (city) share," he said.

About $3 million in city dollars will be used to pay for aesthetic improvements, and $1 million will be set aside in a fund, with earned interest used to help maintain aesthetics.

Evans said he voted against the agreement because of the money devoted to aesthetics.


"We just have to tighten our belt, I think," he said.

City Administrator Stevan Kvenvold defended the plan, saying U.S. 52 "is a $213 million project that will put a significant gash through this community, so I think you should do some landscaping."

Jon Chiglo, manager of the highway project for MnDOT, said the state has placed four development teams on a "short list" of potential contractors. The Transportation Department will issue bid proposals in late May, with plans to begin road work by early November, Chiglo said.

Abandoned buildings near Second Street Southwest will be demolished starting in late May, Chiglo said.

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