Hwy 52 construction near Iowa border affects Amish buggy traffic
ROCHESTER, Minn. – Road construction not only affects motorists in southeastern Minnesota, but work on Highway 52 near the Iowa border also is affecting travel among the Amish who use Minnesota’s official Amish Buggy Byway.
The 10 miles of construction on Highway 52 from the Iowa border to Harmony, Minn., includes milling and paving, as well as pipe sewer, culvert, and curb and gutter work, all of which will force the road shoulders to be closed at times. The Amish Buggy Byway has widened shoulders to accommodate the buggies the Amish community use for transportation in the region.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation, through the project contractor Mathy Construction of Onalaska, Wis., has worked to reach the Amish, who do not use modern communication devices. Letters outlining the work have been handed out at an Amish market near Canton, Minn., and guides with Amish Tours in Harmony have been delivering the letter to some farms to assist in the distribution of the information.
“People who use the roadways can make better plans when we’re able to reach them with the information,” said Jeff Bunch, a MnDOT construction project manager. “It’s safer for everyone.”
Southeastern Minnesota is home to Minnesota’s two largest Amish communities. Amish America, an Amish website, reports that the Harmony-Canton area in Fillmore County is home to Minnesota’s largest Amish settlement with seven church districts and approximately 1,000 people. A second Fillmore County settlement is in the Granger area, which is on the Minnesota-Iowa state line and includes residents in Iowa. The Granger settlement is the second largest in Minnesota and has three church districts, according to Amish America.
The Minnesota Legislature marked Highway 52, from its intersection with Highway 44 near Prosper, Minn., to its intersection with Highway 16 east of Preston, Minn., as the "Amish Buggy Byway." The green signs show a buggy and include the words “Amish Byway.” The byway signs have been in place since 1996.
The milling and paving work is scheduled to begin May 19 at the Iowa border and progress toward Harmony approximately 2.5 to 3 miles per day. Mathy Construction is recommending that Amish buggies find an alternate route for Highway 52 while the milling and paving operations are occurring, especially around the work zones. The contractor said it will work with Amish traffic that chooses to travel Highway 52 to ensure as little inconvenience as possible. The milling and paving work is expected to last approximately three to four weeks.
MnDOT urges motorists to always be attentive, drive with caution, slow down in work zones and never enter a road blocked with barriers or cones.