The Rice County Board of Commissioners met as a Committee of the Whole today and had about a 45 minute discussion about the prospects for a new I-35 interchange at County Road 9 north of Faribault.

County Highway Engineer Dennis Luebbe was appreciative representatives from the City of Faribault, State Senator John Jasinski and State Representative Brian Daniels were at the table for the discussion.  City Administrator Tim Murray and Economic Development Director Deanna Kuennen indicated the interchange would be a benefit to the community.

However, Kuennen and Murray said there are some challenges with the area topography north of the Met-Con area that don't provide for shovel ready pieces of property.  They indicated the Highway 60 West corridor has city services, is shovel ready and would be a better fit for some businesses seeking to come to Faribault.

Kuennen told Commissioners before they can have a serious discussion about the future of the County Road 9 interchange they need to have some idea of the costs involved in developing the area.

Luebbe stated, "What we're talking about today is, I think, reconvening, is there interest? Could we meet again? Maybe a smaller group.  Look at the scope of planning.  I mean we're not talking about construction at all.  We're just talking about if there's interest.  Do we have a common interest in protecting the area for the interchange from development."

Luebbe added, "If the community as a whole believes the best interest for the transportation system is a interchange there, we need to do something to protect it.  Otherwise it won't happen."

Commissioner Galen Malecha of Northfield is on the County Economic Development Committee and commented, "We has a county have seen the growth that Faribault has been having on the north end and Deanna I think you've heard this as well as we've heard this, businesses that look up there don't locate there because of the fact there is not an exchange at County Road 9 and they don't want to have to take their trucks back into Faribault to get onto Highway 21 to go north again.  We've heard that countless times.  So I think it's time for us to look and see what the future holds.  To see what kind of partnership we can form with Faribault on this."

Commissioner Steve Underdahl agreed the development would be a very long process saying, "Maybe 15 years, and we also know even to begin with and all the way through construction if it ever happens to come to fruition, it's gonna take multiple partners at the table to be able to make this thing work."

The biggest player in it all is probably the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn-Dot)  and they were not at today's discussion.  Luebbe indicated his belief it was too soon to include them in the discussions but he did say, "When we're talking about a new interchange it's really about more than that specific area.  It's the whole corridor that has to be analyzed as part of that process.  It might make a lot of sense for the corridor to be County Road 9 from Trunk Highway 3 all the way over to Trunk Highway 21.  It's not just building that interchange there's a lot of other elements that come into it.  It's a lengthy process."

Indications are Luebbe will put together some estimated numbers for a future meeting on the topic.

Current Rice County Road 9 I-35 Overpass. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Current Rice County Road 9 I-35 Overpass. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld

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