The Rice County Board of Commissioners met today as a Committee of the Whole with the Rice County Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee to talk transportation.  Environmental Services Director Julie Runkel led the meeting in the Commissioner's Room of the Rice County Government Services Building.

During the discussion County Highway Engineer Dennis Luebbe suggested the county conduct a transit study which would include traffic counts on roads throughout the county.  Commissioner Galen Malecha agreed a transit study would be beneficial in planning for the future of transportation in Rice County.

Luebbe noted the transportation portion of the comprehensive plan was definitely comprehensive with input from a number of residents, townships and municipalities in the county.  A transit study would include surveying residents to determine what roads they use most frequently, what time they are on the roads each day, whether they would use mass transit if it were available.

Luebbe said questions could include, "Whether they would car pool, walk or prefer to bike.  That's a transit study that's outside the scope of updating the transportation plan."  Commissioner Malecha of Northfield added, "As long as Dennis is paying for it we can do it."  Which generated chuckles from around the room.

Luebbe was asked how the transportation plan has benefited his department and he answered, "Internally we've utilized it by following most of the principles, but it's been very useful in securing millions of dollars in grants because we have a plan and can refer to that and show some of our priorities."

Luebbe added, "I think it's been a very good vehicle for moving us down the road.  Two puns intended."  Malecha said, "We've made some great progress in transportation.  It's always been a priority as Commissioners.  Transportation effects so many things within the county.  From commerce, economic development to transporting kids to school back and forth everyday, to transporting to work."

Malecha asked Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn about what he's seen on the roads over the years and Dunn said, "I've seen significant, it's definitely gotten better and I think we work better as a county unit on addressing a lot of these issues.  To have a ear with the Commissioners, an ear with planning and zoning and highway (department) it goes a long way."

Dunn also provided input when Commissioners discussed roads needing their attention.  The Sheriff pointed out County Road 86 along the Rice/Scott County border has seen some tremendous growth in numbers and encouraged Commissioners to work with neighboring counties to improve those border roads.

Commissioners appeared to agree with the transportation goals outlined in the document.

  1. Enhance and maintain a transportation system that supports economic development and growth.
  2. Advocate for preservation and improvement of the road infrastructure.
  3. Encourage the enhancement of public transportation throughout the County.
  4. Support and incorporate active living principles in transportation plans and identified projects.
Rice County Commissioners Discuss Transportation. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Rice County Commissioners Discuss Transportation. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld

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