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The signs (and population numbers) are a'changing

Tuesday kicked off the Minnesota Department of Transportation's plan to replace 209 highway signs with new Census population numbers in southeastern Minnesota this spring and summer.

New Population Signs
Loren Tews, left, and Joey Fenske, both with the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 6 sign shop, put a new population number on the Rochester sign north of town on U.S. Highway 52 on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Drive into Rochester or Byron on Tuesday morning, and you’ll see a familiar green sign.

But make sure to note the new number at the bottom.

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation, on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, replaced the population signs in Rochester and Byron, the first of many population signs being replaced throughout southeastern Minnesota.

Rochester’s population sign will change from 106,769 based on the 2010 census to 121,395 — nearly a 14% population increase — based on the 2020 Census. Byron’s sign will change from 4,914 to 6,312, a 28% increase.

Both signs represent the same thing to each city’s respected mayors: growth.

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“We knew we were on good growth, but we’d never had numbers to back it up until it came out with the 2020 Census. So we’re very pleased to be at the 6,300 number,” said Byron Mayor Daryl Glassmaker. “That was really good to see because you always want a community that’s growing while communities around the area maybe are stagnant or have a little bit of growth, but it just seems like Byron is a popular place.”

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton also sees the success the Rochester community has had in growing Med City.

“I just think it's a sign of our success as a community and that people want to live here. It's a desirable community, which is something we should all be proud of,” Norton said. “It's a positive thing for people to see, and we want people to know about the community. I know when I first moved to Rochester that was one of the first things I looked at as I drove into town. I remember seeing that sign, I think at the time it was 70,000 or something. It's just kind of surprising.”

Norton also said it needs to be made certain that “we grow carefully.”

“People are proud that Rochester is a thriving and growing community, but I think sometimes there's a little bit of angst in that change as well,” Norton said. “Rochester is growing and changing. So I think for some people, it's exciting to be that place that people want to go, but also, you know, is it changing too much? And I think we have to pay attention to that and make certain that we grow carefully and with planning and make sure people have housing, jobs and transit and all the things that go with a growing city.”

051722-Byron-Population-Change-gif.gif
Minnesota Department of Transportation sign shop worker Loren Tews replaces the population listed on the Byron sign on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Tucker Covey / Post Bulletin

After Tuesday, a “sign team” with the Minnesota Department of Transportation will spend its summer changing 209 population signs in the southeast Minnesota region, according to Mike Dougherty, a MnDOT spokesperson.

The sign team, which is responsible for changing traffic signs throughout the state, will spend the spring and summer changing the population signs on top of their regular assignments, Dougherty said.

For Glassmaker, the new sign he’ll see in Byron will come as a shock after a decade of one that didn’t show his city’s growth.

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“You see it hundreds of times a month, then you see that number and all of a sudden, bang, it’s going to be an eye-opener when that number is posted,” he said. “It’s just amazing to see that change.”

Erich is a digital content producer at the Post Bulletin where he creates content for the Post Bulletin's digital platforms. Before he moved to Rochester, Erich worked as a sports reporter for Rivals.com covering the University of Illinois' athletic programs in Champaign, Illinois. Readers can reach Erich at 507-285-7681 or efisher@postbulletin.com.
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