The Minnesota Department of Transportation has turned to the old-fashioned method of alerting southeastern Minnesota's Amish residents of an upcoming road construction project on the "Buggy Byway." It's distributing letters at town markets and going door to door to spread the news.
Later this month, MnDOT will begin a repaving project on Hwy. 52 in Fillmore County from Harmony, Minn. to the Iowa state line, a stretch of highway known as the "Amish Buggy Byway."
The area is home to the state's two largest Amish settlements, according to the website Amish America. Since they don't use email, Twitter, Facebook or other modern communication devices, MnDOT is using a little shoe-leather and going farm to farm.
"That how it was done along time ago," said Mike Dougherty, a spokesman for MnDOT's southeastern Minnesota district. "They don't have electronics so we needed a good way to give the heads up. It worked then, so let's do it now."
The agency is handing out letters at the Amish market in Canton, Minn. and enlisted guides with Amish Tours to distribute the letter to area farms. MnDOT also has the Amish's vendors spreading the word about the project, which also includes replacing sewer pipes, curbs, gutters and culverts.
"We don't want them to just show up and see an orange sign and detour," Dougherty said. "We are using some shoe leather to let them know."
Buggies are a common sight on the wide shoulders of the highway, which was officially named the "Amish Buggy Byway" by the State Legislature in 1996. Green signs show a buggy and include the words "Buggy Byway, which officially runs from Hwy. 44 near Prosper, Minn. and Hwy. 16 east of Preston.
MnDOT is recommending that buggy traffic use alternate routes during the three to four weeks it will take to complete the project. But contractors will work with Amish traffic that chooses to travel Hwy. 52 to ensure "as little inconvenience as possible," he said.