Governor Mark Dayton and MnDOT announced ten highway projects; totaling $300 million will receive funding through the state's new Corridors of Commerce program.
One of the projects announced is the much-anticipated Highway 14 completion project from Owatonna to Dodge Center. That project received $16 to $20 million dollars. Unfortunately, after much excitement from local residents, it was uncovered that the project is actually only Phase One out of a three-phase project. Phase One only includes two and a half miles of expansion from Highway 218 interchange to County Road 43. According to Kristin Kammueller, of MnDOT, when planning for the three-phase project, developers looked at where safe end routes would be and planned the project around those three points. The first is County Road 43, the second phase will go from County Road 43 to County Road 16 and then the final stage will go from County Road 16 to the west junction of 56. As of now there is no money allotted for Phase Two or Phase Three of the project and there is no indication that there will be money to complete the project anytime soon.
Highway 14 from North Mankato to Nicollet and Nicollet Bypass both received funding as well. The Nicollet Bypass received $15-$25 million and the four-lane expansion from North Mankato to Nicollet received $20-$28 million.
Kevin Gutknecht, a communications director for MnDot, said the reason why the North Mankato to Nicollet received more money, is simple. "Their project is ready to go," he explained. "We are funding projects from all over the state with this money and one of the main requirements for choosing which projects to do is, if the projects are ready to be completed."
Kristen Kammueller also pointed out the first phase on the Highway 14 project has already acquired the right of way to add a four-lane highway. MnDOT has not secured the land that will be needed for future phases of the project.
Senator Vicki Jensen
In a press release from Senator Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna) she states: "I'm so grateful after so many years of disappointment that I've been able to secure some funding for this project in my first year as a state senator," said Sen. Jensen. "I know that there is still a lot to do and I'm committed to making sure to fight that fight and to make sure we get that road to completion. I am grateful for the community for their support and with their support hopefully we will be able to get that done.
Today's funding will fund Phase One of the four-lane expansion from Owatonna to Dodge Center, four-lane expansion from North Mankato to Nicollet, and the Nicollet four-lane bypass along the Highway 14 corridor. These projects will be significant in increasing safety and mobility along the corridor.
The Corridors of Commerce program was established during the 2013 legislative session. Spearheaded by Sen. Jensen, the program allocated a $300 million "down payment" on highway projects that connect regional centers of commerce, like Highway 14. Although the current allotment is a good start, it's still far from completing the necessary upgrades.
"We still have a lot to fight for," said Jensen. "We need a comprehensive transportation solution that fully invests in the important projects we have in the state. Highway 14 needs to be completed, and we need renewed investment to get it done.
Representative Duane Quam
Representative Duane Quam (R-Byron) is not as enthusiastic about the new project. He stated he is very disappointed with the way the funds were distributed and felt that the decisions were based on politics and not a need.
"We're on the fifth decade of trying to get a four-lane highway from Rochester to Mankato," He said. "The only section that is not complete, is the section between Dodge Center and Owatonna and it's one of the deadliest roads in the state, something more needs to be done."
Quam said he was initially very happy when he heard the project had been given funding, until he learned that there were only two and a half miles being completed at this time. "I don't know if that's enough to help," he said. "We have to work harder to get the whole thing done." He thinks the fact that now that Dodge County has six representatives and five senators working for them at the capitol that it will help increase the push for the more funding to complete the project.
More information is available at www.mndot.gov/corridorsofcommerce/.