The Only Unpaved MN State Highway is Right Here in Southeast Minnesota
A little over 30 miles northeast of Rochester, you'll find the only unpaved state highway in Minnesota. And that unpaved stretch is about to get even longer.
One of the bonuses of living here in greater Minnesota (or 'outstate' if you're not from around here) is the fact that we don't have to deal with all the trappings that come with living in a major metropolitan area, like the Twin Cities.
Our commute times aren't as great as in the Cities, traffic on our highways (while increasing) isn't as bad, and for the most part, our crime is lower while our general quality of life is higher, right?
Of course, there are some downsides to living 'in the sticks,' as my grandpa used to say. Like, for instance, having the only state highway in Minnesota that isn't paved. And starting Monday, August 16, that stretch of unpaved state highway is getting longer, as well.
In case you didn't know, Minnesota state highway-74, which runs between St. Charles in Winona County north to Weaver in Wabasha County, already features a 7-mile stretch that is unpaved. It's the only state highway in all of Minnesota that's still made of gravel. The unpaved stretch currently starts at Winona County Rd 30 and runs north through Whitewater State Park and the park management area.
But now, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) says another stretch of Highway-74, a 4-mile stretch starting just north of Elba, is being converted from pavement to gravel, as well, in a project that's expected to last about a month. So what's with turning a paved road into a gravel road? Usually, it works the other way around-- MnDOT will pave a road that was gravel, right?
Well, not this time. And a lack of money is the reason why. According to a MnDOT release:
The gravel work is being done because the maintenance crews are unable keep up with how the road is deteriorating and there is not sufficient funding to do reconstruct and pave the road.
MPR says another reason is that the highway is not traveled very often, noting that, on average, it only sees about 75 cars a day. Compare that to nearby Highway-61, which sees several thousand vehicles a day or highways in the Twin Cities metro that often see well over 100,00 a day and you start to get the picture.
So, southeast Minnesota will retain the honor of having the only state highway-- out of 11,000 some miles of state highways MnDOT says are here in Minnesota-- that's still made of gravel. A gravel state highway might be something that would surprise visitors to Minnesota. But it's not the ONLY thing... keep scrolling to check out some other items that might surprise first-time visitors to the Land of 10,000 Lakes!