(top)Maybe the best early Christmas present this year was the re-opening of Main Street. Leanne Kingsley's first grade students carried the gift tage to this big present! (bottom)And Jen Solberg's kindergarten students proudly held their hand-made sign for all to see!
(top)Maybe the best early Christmas present this year was the re-opening of Main Street. Leanne Kingsley's first grade students carried the gift tage to this big present! (bottom)And Jen Solberg's kindergarten students proudly held their hand-made sign for all to see!
For the first time since the 1930's, Spring Grove has a brand-new Main Street.

After months of detours, residents got to drive through downtown again last week. But there's a lot more than new pavement running through Minnesota's first Norwegian settlement. The project included rebuilding and improving water mains, sanitary sewer, and storm sewers along the Highway 44/Main corridor, placing all-new curbs and gutters along the route, replacing sidewalks and providing ADA-compliant pedestrian ramps, changing the layout of the Division/Main intersection, placing bump-outs in key areas, installing new streetlights, adding planting beds, above-grade planters, new benches, and new trash receptacles to dress up the downtown, trees, and more.

Some of the more important details aren't visible to those cruising down Main. Those included replacing the four-inch water main that lies below the roadway with one that's twice as wide. Sanitary sewers were re-lined. In addition, storm sewer capacity was expanded to help alleviate flooding in the business district.

Thursday's ribbon-cutting/opening ceremony also marked the end of a long and sometimes bumpy road for the city. Planning for the project began even before the city council hired WHKS & Co. to initiate engineering studies in the winter of 2011.

The proposed scope of the project often brought disagreements between residents and council members. The construction corridor includes Main Street/Highway 44 from Second Ave. East to Third Ave. West. It's actually part of the larger MNDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) road reconstruction project that reaches west to highway 52.

The City of Spring Grove took advantage of an offer which provided $1.5 million toward improvements within the city through MNDOT's Municipal Agreement Program. An estimate for all the work within city limits came in at $4,176,000 prior to groundbreaking. That was before several changes were made to plans. Actual costs (subtracting items that were dropped from the project and adding in alterations that had to be made as construction progressed) have yet to be tallied.

"(I'm) just glad it's done," Mayor Bruce Poole said just before he cut the ribbon with some assistance from student council president Nicki Ellingson. School children, civic groups, and citizens paraded down the still-vacant thoroughfare from both ends of town to witness the event.

"We first started digging up the road on June 1, and so here we are between the middle and end of November (and) we are now just getting done. It has been a good six-month project, but it worked out pretty good.

Former Council Member Steve Kemp echoed Poole's words. "It is just great to see it done," he said. "It was questionable whether it was going to happen after last November, so I am very happy - as I am sure most of the businesses are.

"I am super excited about it..." former Mayor Saundra Solum said.

During two years of meetings, she and council members helped design the plan which would update Main Street for years to come.

"Safety was our number one focus," Solum said later. "That's a major highway. You have students crossing that street every day. Now you can drive through town and there's cross walks. There's signs that say 'Slow down - Watch for pedestrians.'

"There was also the aspect of increasing water flow for fire protection, (and) getting better storm sewers in place to handle runoff. Just having pipes that aren't going to leak. Those were old...you had water pipes that were ancient."

"It's still not done. The (new) benches aren't here yet, and there's going to be new trash receptacles arriving. There are also some boulders coming in for aesthetics, and some above ground planters coming. Those are things that won't be complete until spring."

"We also wanted lights that wouldn't pollute the sky, which is why we have downward-facing bulbs. Those (receptacles) can be retrofitted to LED's when the price for those come down. Even so, these bulbs are much more energy efficient than our old streetlights.

"It was very cool how we brought different generations together. We had all the students walk from the school, and then everyone else in town walked from the other end. We kind of met in the middle. It was pretty moving.

As Solum mentioned, roadwork is now done for the year, but next spring will feature some tidying-up of loose ends. Remaining sod and trees will be planted. Some concrete work will be finished, and a final street light replaced on the east end of the project. Permanent epoxy striping will go in all the way to Highway 52, and new rumble strips will be milled from 52 to the west end of Spring Grove.