MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a popular stop that more than a million Minnesotans make on their way to cabin country each year.  But a remodel has closed the Goose Creek Rest Stop along I-35 for the last two years.

WCCO investigated the state’s most expensive rest area and the construction delays, raising eyebrows at the capitol.

Jodie Ice’s 80-mile work commute from Sandstone to Minneapolis a few times a week relied on a certain stop mid-ride.

“I have absolutely no idea what to make of it,” Ice said. “It is very frustrating for someone like me.”

Bu, Ice’s travels have taken her elsewhere as she waits for the barriers around this rest area to be removed.

“I’m very curious as to what they could possibly be doing in there that could be taking so long,” she said.

For two years, the Goose Creek rest stop along Interstate 35 near North Branch has been off limits.  Original plans had it opening seven months ago. Project delays and an eye-popping $7.2 million price tag have some lawmakers asking questions.

Construction of a circular building made of Brazilian Ipe wood and curved glass were a part of the blueprints, dubbed as durable and more energy-efficient.

“This is really a boondoggle,” Rep. Ann Neu said. “It just seemed like there were some extravagancies that were unnecessary.”

Neu is one of three Republican state representatives to lay out concerns to the Minnesota Department of Transportation last year in an open letter, pointing out that the pot of money used for the project are trunk highway tax dollars.

“Those are dollars that very specifically pay for our roads and bridges,” she said.

So far, Neu feels that the state hasn’t provided any good answers.

“We want to know that those dollars are being spent responsibly and I’m just not convinced that that’s the case with this situation,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

MnDOT’s director of communications, Kevin Gutknecht, admits Goose Creek cost much more than your typical rest stop renovation.  But he says it’s simply because the work is much more extensive.

“Rest areas are a very important safety feature for motorists like I said we’ve had millions literally millions of visitors go to our rest area. It’s good when you’re out driving to be able to stop and rest,” Gutknecht said.

A new retaining wall, parking area, and storm and sanitary sewer system replacement all add up, along with materials that need little maintenance. It’s been 50 years since the last face-lift at Goose Creek.

As for why it’s taking so long, MnDOT points the finger at the contractor for failing to meet the Sept. 30 deadline.

“We are not pleased with this,” Gutknecht said.

The president of Sheehy Construction told us his company wouldn’t comment on the delay.  MnDOT says Sheehy pays a $900 penalty each day it goes over deadline.

“We’re probably going to be opening it up pretty soon,” Gutknecht added.

It’s on track now, the state believes, for an end of the month or early June opening, a day that can’t come soon enough for drivers like Jodie Ice.

“I don’t even know what to expect at this point what it will look like,” Ice said.

MnDOT says it usually renovates one of the state’s 67 rest areas every other year depending on the age and condition.  The agency spends about $5 million a year on rest stop renovations.

MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher told WCCO’s Liz Collin that she has asked for a full review of the project, which went into motion before she was commissioner:

To ensure I have a full understanding of the facts and decisions, and to prevent any future cost escalations, I have asked for a full review of the Goose Creek project and engineering challenges associated with it. This was an extensive renovation that was delayed partially due to weather conditions, but MnDOT is pleased that final work is now being done and it will be open to the public very soon.

Liz Collin

Comments (9)
  1. Tim Neumann says:

    Once again MN DOT is making up excuses as to why it has to spend millions on a project whose only purpose is to provide a temporary rest site. Fleecing of the tax payers continues as does the BS associated with it.

  2. Timothy Hutchinson says:

    MN DOT wastes 136 million on MNLars and only 7 on a rest stop, but let’s everyone be upset about the 7 million? Wow.

    1. Tommy Johnson says:

      Don’t forge the now extra $72 million needed to buy an out of box solution that may or may not be any more successfully if the MNLARs. We are literally getting robbed by our government and no one says or does anything about it. Maybe we need to run for office…can’t beat em, join em sort of a deal?

  3. Ed James says:

    So the State of Minnesota rebuilds sport teams stadiums every 30 years but rest areas every 120 years. Got it.

    “MnDOT says it usually renovates one of the state’s 67 rest areas every other year depending on the age and condition. “

  4. Brian Campbell says:

    MnDOT says it usually renovates one of the state’s 67 rest areas every other year depending on the age and condition. The agency spends about $5 million a year on rest stop renovations. OK, so how in the hell do you authorize 7.2 MILLION dollars on this rest stop…and your excuse of it’s been 50 years since the last facelift? But you refresh a rest stop every other year.. so I don’t really get how its been 50 years.. do you just go by the amount of time? or do you look at the facility and what it needs? Someone made a lot of money here.. and it’s a damn shame that the taxpayers continue to get the “shaft”…AND that the taxpayers continue to get shafted by this kind of boondoggle.

  5. Do you still think that a government health care one payer system would be more efficient?
    What people fail to realize that USA government waste and bureaucracy is like no other in the world.

  6. This is a know gay pick up spot so maybe it just has to look all cutie pie. Keep your kids away… it also is a known Pedophile gathering place.

  7. P.S. Someone is spinning this story, the real cost is more like $15 million.

  8. Samuel Espey says:

    MNDOT will be spending more of our $$$ demolishing and rebuilding the rest areas near Jackson and St. James. Buildings that are in working order and already made of sustainable material (rock siding and steel roof). What happened to, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”?