MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A popular rest area on the way to cabin country will be open after all in time for Memorial Day weekend.
A WCCO-TV investigation earlier this month exposed construction delays at the Goose Creek Rest Area north of North Branch along Interstate 35. The more-than-$7-million renovation raised eyebrows at the State Capitol.
It has been more than two years since travelers have been able to stop at the rest area. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday it’s back open, but the conversations at the Capitol about Minnesota’s most expensive rest stop show no signs of coming to an end.
From the curved walkway to the play area, and bathrooms fit for a fancy hotel, they are just a few of the features to take in at the dramatic transformation of the rest area. Paola Ehrmantraut has never seen anything like it.
“It feels very modern and very intentional in all the details and use of materials,” Ehrmantraut said. “It looks like something in my imagination, I guess in Denmark.”
Rep. Anne Neu was one of the first to raise concerns more than a year ago to then-Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle. She pointed out how these tax dollars come from the same pot of money that could be used for roads and bridge repairs.
“The concerns we’ve expressed throughout this process about the high cost being due to extravagances are clearly legitimate. This is quite a boondoggle of a rest stop,” Neu said.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher is the new MnDOT commission, and she promised a full review of what happened here.
“I am pleased to say I got a call from the commissioner last night letting me know that the rest stop would be open today, and also to let me know they will be reviewing other projects to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Neu said.
A back and forth between MnDOT and the contractor Sheehy Construction delayed the opening for months. The two released a statement Wednesday to say safety fencing will temporarily be in place to block off unfinished areas at the rest stop, but that the building and restrooms will now remain open.
As far as any fine by MnDOT to the contractor the state says those specific details have yet to be sorted out. The focus is finishing the project first and talking about liquidated damages later.
MnDOT has said it’s been more than 50 years since a renovation at Goose Creek. It blames the high price of the project on a new retaining wall, parking area and storm and sanitary sewer system.