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Pine Island is road project central

Minnesota Department of Transportation workers spread an erosion preventative covering over the embankment of a new retaining wall built on the Pine Island exit on U.S. 52. The rebuilt exit will include a small roundabout to allow access to a new frontage road east of 52 as well as access to State Highway 12 East to Plainview and West into Pine Island.

If it seems like Pine Island has had an endless parade of traffic cones and paving equipment, there's a good reason. The streets of the town just north of Rochester have been under construction for about five years, and the road work is far from done.

"We had a retreat in July, and we outlined upcoming projects for the next five years," said Rod Steele, mayor of Pine Island.

Currently, the city is in the midst of its biggest, most expensive project, the roundabout on the east side exit of U.S. 52 and Goodhue County Road 11 as well as the city's portion of the east frontage road for U.S. 52 from the Elk Run interchange to County Road 11. That project, said city clerk Jon Eickhoff, will cost Pine Island taxpayers $3.37 million.

"They have 23 work days to go," Steele said. "You'll see blacktop in the next three weeks. It's a pain but we knew it would be."

During the final stages, though, the exit to County Road 11 and the roundabout will never be closed to traffic. "What they'll do is one lane, and once that cures they'll do the other lane."


The city has also bonded for $1.15 million in 2012 and $1.13 million in 2010 for its ongoing Northwest Street Project, Eickhoff said. That project includes curb and gutter, sewer and water for streets in the northwest portion of Pine Island.

Steele said the project was planned in three parts, with the third part likely to begin in 2015 once the frontage road and roundabout project is done.

"We didn't do anything in 2014 on the Northwest Street Project," Steele said. "That's been on hold for a year and a half. We can't do it simultaneously with the frontage road. But once the frontage road project is done, we'll get back on that."

On Tuesday night, the city council voted to conduct a feasibility study on the remainder of the Northwest Street Project. Once that is completed, Steele said, the city will tackle the southwest quadrant of the city. The southeast quadrant has already been completed, and the northeast quadrant's residential streets are new enough not to need new sewer, water and resurfacing.

The other three quadrants, though have been long been in need of repair. "Some of these sewer and water connections have been in place for 50-70 years," Steele said. "It's a fairly big expenditure without a huge tax base to pay for it."

With all these bonds, taxpayers in Pine Island are certainly feeling it in their pocketbooks. For a home valued at $150,000, the 2014 bond will cost $46 a year, the 2012 bond runs $19 a year, and the 2010 bond costs $28 a year.

At least the frontage road project should pay financial dividends, Steele said. Because the city owns the land along the frontage road, it can earn back tax money from any businesses that build up along the corridor.

The other road project planned for the city is the expansion and repair of 125th Street from the new Elk Run interchange to County Road 3. The road will extend past the new elementary school in Pine Island, connecting the school to the Elk Run exit. That project, however, will be paid for by the county. "We're not going to put any money into that one," Steele said. "We're trying to tell them all the advantages of moving it forward, to getting it done sooner."

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