LAKE CITY -- Since mid-April, residents of Lake City and anyone traveling Highway 61 through the town encountered road construction and a series of detours. On Thursday, Oct. 28, those inconveniences ended with the early reopening of the final section of the reconstruction project.

“We thought it would take to the middle part of November, but here we are, and a lot of that has to do with the good weather this summer," said Cindy Morgan, public engagement coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

With all the curbs, sidewalks, and asphalt roadway in place, crews were busy Wednesday and Thursday adding turn markers and striping to the road, and the city of Lake City held a small opening ceremony at the corner of Lyon Avenue and Lakeshore Drive at 2 p.m. Thursday to mark the reopening.

Work crews lay down the turn arrows on the northbound lane of Highway 61 in Lake City on Wednesday, October 28. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Work crews lay down the turn arrows on the northbound lane of Highway 61 in Lake City on Wednesday, October 28. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

Morgan said a few things need to be finished, but they are not issues that prevent the road from opening. One stoplight at the corner of West Marion Street and South Lakeshore Drive had to be reordered when a placement change made the original unusable. That light is expected to be installed in November, but in the meantime, temporary signage controls the intersection. Also, recent cold weather has made crews reconsider whether to seed the landscaped areas yet this fall or wait to spring.

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“We are pleased with how the construction went,” Morgan said. “We are pleased with how Rochester Sand and Gravel managed the project and that we were able to get it to completion. We hope that folks enjoy the benefits of that and see what all the discussion was about the last several years. We are thankful that the construction did go so well.”

Mayor Mark Nichols addresses the crowd during a ceremony to reopen Highway 61 at 2 p.m. on October 29. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Mayor Mark Nichols addresses the crowd during a ceremony to reopen Highway 61 at 2 p.m. on October 29. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

Morgan acknowledged that not everyone in the community was happy with the construction and detours, but she said that MnDOT, the city, and the Lake City Chamber of Commerce added in extra avenues of communication to make sure that anyone who wanted to know about the project and the progress of the work could find that information.

“We are grateful to the community for being so involved and listening and taking those opportunities,” she said. “Between the emails, the newspaper, and the weekly meeting, we put in a lot of extra steps to keep people informed. Then, with the pandemic on top of this, there were a lot of challenges.”

Morgan said MnDOT will review the project and the communication efforts involved in the Highway 61 Reconstruction Project in Lake City to see if some of the things might help other future projects.

“If they were beneficial in Lake City, maybe they’ll be beneficial in other areas, too,” she said. “The growth continues.”