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MnDOT goes old-fashioned to alert Amish about work on 'Buggy Byway'

  • Article by: Tim Harlow
  • Star Tribune
  • May 9, 2014 - 8:15 PM

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has gone old-school to alert southeastern Minnesota’s Amish residents of an upcoming construction project on the “Buggy Byway.” It’s distributing letters at town markets and going door to door.

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 AmishAmerica.com Since they don’t use modern communication devices such as e-mail, Twitter, Facebook or even phones in some cases, MnDOT is using a little “shoe-leather” and going farm to farm.

“That’s how it was done a long 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 it enlisted guides with Amish Tours to distribute letters to area farms. MnDOT also has Amish vendors spreading the word about the project, which 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.

Buggies are a common sight on the wide shoulders of the highway, which was officially named the “Amish Buggy Byway” by the Legislature in 1996. Green signs show a buggy and include the words “Buggy Byway,” which officially runs from Hwy. 44 near Prosper, Minn., to Hwy. 16 east of Preston.

MnDOT recommends 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 on Hwy. 52 to ensure “as little inconvenience as possible,” he said.

Follow news about ­traffic at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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