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Official: Cannon Falls US 52 interchange a 'dream come true'

Goodhue County Commissioner Richard Samuelson is pictured along side of U.S. 52 in Cannon Falls Tuesday, November 29, 2011. Samuelson was recently received the Transportation Advocate of the Year Award from the Minnesota Transportation Alliance.

CANNON FALLS — In nearly two decades of frustrating, fruitless pursuit of funding, Richard Samuelson wasn't sure an interchange ever would get built on U.S. 52 in Cannon Falls.

Now the Goodhue County commissioner will be the featured speaker at Monday's ceremonial groundbreaking for the construction project.

"I've been working on it for 19 years now, and it's really like a dream come true," said Samuelson, who represents the Cannon Falls area.

Construction will start in earnest next week for the interchange at County Road 24. The Minnesota Department of Transportation expects the $14.3 million project to be completed on Oct. 3, 2014, with the final two stoplights between Rochester and the Twin Cities being removed near the end of that time frame.

In a related development, a nearby interchange project will proceed on an almost identical timetable. MnDOT's recent decision to fund the $8.9 million project at the deadly intersection of U.S. 52 and County Road 9, just seven miles south of the long-awaited Cannon Falls interchange, sparked another celebration among local officials.


Both interchanges are expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.

"To have them kicking off and under construction at the same time, it's something that I never imagined would happen, but it's great for anyone who uses 52," said Greg Isakson, Goodhue County's public works director. "If we're lucky, we can have back-to-back project opening celebrations at 24 and 9."

Cannon Falls Administrator Aaron Reeves believes the city's patience is about to start paying off. Officials are hopeful that Mayo Clinic's new $28 million facility currently under construction near the interchange is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for economic development related to the highway projects.

"Right now it's excitement, but it's mixed with relief," Reeves said of his feelings. "We expect to see a lot of new growth around the interchange, and the bottom line is it's going to be a lot safer."

Traffic impacts during construction are expected to be minimal, according to MnDOT's Kristin Kammueller. The agency plans to keep at least one lane of traffic open on the northbound and southbound sides of U.S. 52 throughout the two-year construction process.

Not everyone is pleased with the situation, though. Class Act, a strip club on the west side of U.S. 52, opposed the state's attempted land acquisition needed to construct the interchange.

Mark Trogstad-Isaacson, MnDOT's Right of Way Engineer, said Wednesday that a judge ruled in favor of the state about a month ago, signing an order that grants MnDOT Class Act's property on July 5 for a price that will be determined later.It's unclear if Class Act will relocate or simply close, but its current building will be razed with the interchange's exit ramp constructed on its parking lot.

The two interchange projects have pushed the Highway 52 Freeway Partnership, which was created in 1999 by Olmsted, Goodhue and Dakota counties, past the halfway point of its $816 million vision that seeks to create an 80-mile stretch of controlled-access highway between Rochester and the Twin Cities.


The end may still be more than a decade away, but officials remain optimistic as high-priority projects continue to receive funding.

"What's good for Cannon Falls is good for Goodhue County," Samuelson said. "It's important for the whole state, really. It's a great project … and everybody wins on this one."

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