SAINT PAUL, MN – Legislation was heard to expand a part of Highway 14 Monday. The legislation would provide $212 million in funding to expand the Highway from a two-lane to a four-lane highway, a much needed and long overdue expansion for this important regional corridor. The bill’s chief author, Senator Vicki Jensen (DFL – Owatonna) stressed the importance of this funding.
“Highway 14 is the single most important transportation project to Southern Minnesota, and expanding it to four lanes across the whole route is critical to the success of our communities,” said Sen. Jensen. “My bill to complete the project was heard by the committee, but the only way this long-term and necessary project will move forward is with stable, predictable and constitutionally-dedicated funding.”
Jensen’s bill, SF 923, requests $212 million in trunk highway bonds to help with right of way purchases, engineering and construction of marked U.S. Highway 14. The bill would complete the two-lane to four-lane expansion of the 12.5 miles between County Road 43 in Steele County to the west junction of Trunk Highway 56 in Dodge Center.
Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz and Dodge County Engineer Guy Kohlnhofer both attended the hearing and testified in support of the measure.
“I’m a lifelong resident of Owatonna,” began Mayor Kuntz. “One of my great passions is economic development. And when we talk about economic development, about 75% of it in Southern Minnesota happens along Highway 14.” Kuntz also mentioned that we’ve been talking about completing this project since the 1970s, yet we still don’t have a four-lane road to get from Owatonna to the Mayo Clinic. “We’ve made great progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Kohlnhofer spoke to the substantial safety risks associated with the current road. “The Sheriff, deputies, and others have come to me with stories of their problems,” said Kohlnhofer. Dangerous situations are created every day as a result of the two-lane sections of Highway 14, including fatal or nearly fatal incidents for students, farmers, and every day travelers. “As the two ends of Mankato and Rochester grow, more and more commercial vehicles take this route, creating more hazards.”
“This increased traffic is putting greater pressure on the two-lane sections, increasing the danger and potential for fatal accidents,” said Jensen.
The bipartisan bill was one of several heard on Monday to expand and improve Highway 14. The Corridors of Commerce program jump-started much of the necessary work on the Highway, but cannot fund the whole project. Without more dedicated and sustained funding to finish the work, delays completion will only lead to an increase in costs in the future.
“In the 1960s, it cost $5.5 million to complete 13 miles of construction on Highway 14. Today, the costs for this critical project are much larger but absolutely necessary for our area. It’ll only cost us more if we wait any longer on these projects. Our communities deserve to have this project completed,” added Jensen.
For questions on this or any other legislation, please contact Senator Jensen at 651-296-9457 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.