For those who have fought the congestion attempting to get in and out of the Albertville outlet mall on Highway 19 next to I-94, help is on the way. It will take some time and will cause some traffic headaches along the way to get there, but the process of improving the intersection at the entrance to the mall officially started Tuesday.
At the Dec. 17 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, a bid was awarded for the Highway 19 and 38 reconstruction/expansion project. The project is being done jointly with Wright County and the cities of Albertville and Otsego. One of the primary focus areas of the project will be expanding the entrance and exit lanes to the outlet mall.
The project was originally bid in May, but the project received only two bids – the lowest being $12.53 million. There were factors involved in the low number of bids received, including a very wet spring, the presence of gas line that was in the process of being moved and utility line work that has since been completed. Because the bids were well over the engineer’s estimate for the project, it was decided to reject both bids and hope for a better outcome when it was re-bid in November.
The second round of bids were opened Nov. 21 with much better results. Assistant Wright County Highway Engineer Chad Hausmann presented the county board with a summary of the new bids. The second time time around, eight bids were received. The low bid came from Mathiowetz Construction of Sleepy Eye in the amount of $9.8 million – more than $2.7 million less than the original low bid price in the spring and very close to the engineer’s estimate of $9.77 million. The winning bid was just $31,000 lower than the second-lowest bid – a difference of .003 percent.
County Board Chairman Darek Vetsch said that the project is going to greatly improve that stretch of highway that connects Albertville and Otsego, especially near the outlet mall. It’s congested getting in and out of the mall at any time of the year, but was a nightmare on Black Friday.
“This is going to make a substantial change to that area for the better,” Vetsch said. “Right now, you get through the busy holiday season, it would be nice to show people that there is an intent to change and make it flow better. Some people said it took them almost an hour to get out of the outlet mall over Black Friday weekend. Traffic was just that terrible. I felt bad for any law enforcement people that got inside there to answer a call. If they needed to get out, there was nowhere for them to go. There wasn’t even a shoulder for them to drive on if they had to in an emergency.”
Commissioner Mike Potter added that the sheriff’s department had to deploy a pair of deputies to the area to direct traffic because drivers were violating the lanes and causing hazards to others because the traffic was so congested ad frustrated drivers made a bad situation worse.
No official start date has been announced, but the project is expected to get started in May.