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Waves of color slated along U.S. 52 corridor

Two-year, $2 million Rochester project could start this summer

By Matt Russell

mrussell@postbulletin.com

A spruced-up U.S. 52 corridor planted with trees, shrubs, perennials and native grasses is in the works for Rochester, with changes likely starting this summer.

Black-eyed Susans, sumac and coneflowers will join aspen, crabapple and Austrian spruce trees in the corridor, according to plans not yet approved by the city of Rochester and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

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"We’re trying to provide a lot of color," said Thomas Harrington of Kimley-Horn, the St. Paul engineering and land-planning firm that is designing the project.

Estimates call for 1,800 deciduous trees, 450 evergreen trees, 5,000 shrubs and thousands of perennials to join ivy and 80 acres of native grasses in the corridor.

The two-year, $2 million project will focus on an 11.8-mile stretch of highway between 85th Street Northwest and U.S. 63. The city of Rochester is advertising for bids on the work, and the city council could vote on a contract next month.

Landscaping plans call for paying special attention to the area around the Civic Center Drive exit, one of the city’s key gateways, Harrington said.

Bridges over U.S. 52 at 19th Street Northwest, Second Street Southwest and Sixth Street Southwest also will see significant landscaping.

"We want it to be inviting, and we want it to be comfortable for pedestrians," Harrington said. He expects landscaping on the bridges to include flowering shrubs, ornamental grasses and small trees.

The landscaping work comes more than two years after MnDOT finished a $232 million expansion of the U.S. 52 corridor in Rochester.

To limit how long the contract was open, landscaping was not included in the original U.S. 52 expansion contract, according to project manager Terry Ward. Landscaping was delayed further last year as MnDOT and city officials worked on an agreement for how the project would proceed.

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The "city center" area between 19th Street Northwest and Sixth Street Southwest will be landscaped this summer, with the rest of the U.S. 52 corridor to be planted next year, Harrington said.

Rochester and MnDOT each will pay $1 million for the project. Harrington said work could start by late May or early June.

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