County Road 9/I-35

Currently Rice County Road crosses over Interstate 35 just north of Faribault, but a new agreement between the city and county mean planning for a new highway interchange at that location is about to begin. (Suzanne Rook/southernminn.com)

The approvals were anticlimactic.

If Dave Miller hadn’t called one of the two votes “almost historic,” it might have gone unnoticed.

“I remember talking about this when I was on the (Faribault) Planning Commission in the late '80s," said Miller, who served on the city's Planning Commission and City council before taking a seat on the Rice County Board of Commissioners. "It's taken a long time, but we'll get there."

The authorizations, an agreement with engineering firm Bolton & Menk to develop plans for a new interchange at Interstate 35 and County Road 9 just north of Faribault, and a cost-sharing agreement between the Rice County Board of Commissioners and the city, have been bandied about for years, decades even.

But after Tuesday evening’s meeting, the work to plan, prepare for and design an interchange begin.

It won’t happen quickly — the firm projects an 18- to 24-month timeline — or cheaply. The anticipated costs is expected to run $94,500. The county will cover 65% of that, while another agreement approved last week by the Faribault City Council has the city paying for 35% of the work.

The contract calls for two public meetings, so nearby residents can weigh in.

But even then, there will be much to do. The new interchange doesn’t have the necessary authorizations from the state and federal government, meaning that even after Bolton & Menk completes its work, nothing's set in stone. The needed approvals, studies, planning and construction could put completion out anywhere from 10 to 15 years.

State Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, authored a bill this legislative session to provide $500,000 for a comprehensive study of the proposed I-35/County Road 9 interchange. A companion version of the bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Brian Daniels, R-Faribault. The two legislators tried to get funding for the project study in 2017, but that effort was unsuccessful despite support from the city and county.

The potential for funding is still possible this year, as legislators are back in St. Paul this week for a special session to nail down the budget.

While city leaders have said the County Road 9 area is not its focus in terms of economic development, several businesses would benefit from a new interchange on the north side of the city, including manufacturers SageGlass, Faribault Foods and Daikin Applied. It would also relieve traffic at the Hwy. 21 interchange which saw 14,000 vehicles per day in 2018. That's before the expansion of SageGlass and Faribault Foods and the city's second Daikin plant on Acorn Trail was open.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved. 

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