Maintaining Brown County’s highways and bridges takes a big effort from maintenance workers and contractors.

Maintaining Brown County’s highways and bridges takes a big effort from maintenance workers and contractors. You can see contractors paving roads with bituminous or concrete and building bridges. You see maintenance workers plowing snow, seal coating roads and mowing ditches, as well as many other maintenance items. However, you don’t see what else is involved that allows the construction and maintenance work that you see on the road. This work is regulated by a number of state and federal agencies that require permits to allow the work to be done or mandate special requirements when doing the work. Acquiring these permits and approvals can add years to a construction project’s development timeline.

Construction projects that receive federal funds or disturb the soil need several environmental reviews. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Cultural Resources Unit reviews projects for the State Historical Society. This process involves taking photos of structures that can be viewed from the road to determine if any are of historical value. If there are historical structures located within view of the road it could impact what you can do on your highway project. Environmental Services is another MnDOT agency that reviews the project for affects to endangered species for US Fish & Wildlife. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources requires permits for work involved with wetland issues and work near a river. The US Army Corp of Engineers is involved with wetlands as well. They review a project’s impact on wetlands and determine if the project needs a general or individual permit. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) requires a storm water permit if more than one acre of soil is disturbed. A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan needs to be developed along with the project plan for this permit. Another aspect of the storm water permit is that a storm water pond is needed to treat storm water, for the increased gravel or paved surface created by the project, from widening the shoulders or the paved surface. That is why you see these little ponds showing up along the highways that have been reconstructed.

All these reviews and permits are for the good of the environment, but take a long time to complete before construction can begin.

Funding is another aspect that delays projects. County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 13, between Hanska and New Ulm, is scheduled for a concrete overlay in 2021. This project was submitted for federal funds in 2016 for funding in 2021. Federal funds are scheduled many years out. The road surface is in tough shape now, but wasn’t in 2016. Federal funds are set so this project can’t be moved up. We will have to hold it together until 2021 when we can rehabilitate this road surface. Environmental reviews are underway for the CSAH 13 project.