Lack of notice for highway closure hurts business

MnDOT project hurting businesses

SIBLEY COUNTY, Minn. -- Every summer for 51 years, Country Drive-In has been serving burgers and fries on Highway 15 in Sibley County.

"We're open seasonally from around May 1 to Labor Day weekend," said owner Steph Thorsen.

Unfortunately, Country Drive-In's season is also construction season. And the closing of Highway 15 was a project they didn't see coming.

"Essentially, the second half of my season was completely destroyed," Thorsen said. "I can prepare and plan for just about anything out here, even with a short four-month season. But to have to react to something like this, it's just completely unacceptable."

"On this particular project, we didn't do a public meeting. Hindsight, maybe we should have," said MnDOT Project Engineer Kelly Brunkhorst.

Brunkhorst said the highway paving project was originally going to be done one lane at a time. But they later decided they'd need to close Highway 15. Generally, when there will be a closure and detour, Brunkhorst says MnDOT holds a public meeting and puts a notice in the local paper -- neither of which were done in this case.

"Any notice would have been better than what we received," Thorsen said.

Thorsen has done what she can -- cutting worker's hours, putting up a sign, even holding "road closed specials."

MnDOT also put up a sign to help.

"I don't think anyone likes to see businesses affected by road construction," Brunkhorst said.

Brunkhorst says MnDOT doesn't have a policy requiring a public meeting prior to projects -- they handle advanced notice on a case by case basis.

But Thorsen would like to see more accountability.

"I just want to make sure that something changes," she said.

The highway project is set to finish later in September after the Drive-In is closed for the season.


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