When the Legislature approved the new Corridors of Commerce highway funding program in 2013, it was designed to address the longstanding road funding problem the state faces and provide the infrastructure for crucial economic development, especially in outstate Minnesota.
As the Minnesota Department of Transportation begins making decisions on allocating the program’s $300 million in trunk highway bonds, Highway 14 should receive strong consideration.
The Highway 14 Partnership, a coalition of governments, business and individual citizens from Rochester to Sleepy Eye, has recently sent a letter to MnDOT urging the Highway 14 projects that are not yet four lanes be granted funds from the commerce fund.
The coalition is impressive. Cities like Rochester, Mankato and New Ulm have long been associated with the effort. But many private sector employers know the value of this public infrastructure. The coalition’s website lists members that include major employers such as Mathiowetz Construction, Mayo Clinic Health System, HyVee, McNelius Steel and Xcel Energy.
These stakeholders have all come to realize the significant economic development benefits that will come with a four-lane Highway 14 from Rochester to New Ulm. All know a four-lane Highway 14 along its own “corridor of commerce” will move goods efficiently, create business expansions and jobs.
The partnership makes a case for expanding Highway 14 from Nicollet to New Ulm to remove a bottleneck of commercial traffic that is 1.5 times the average rural traffic for two-lane highways. New Ulm is the largest city in Minnesota not served by any four-lane highway, and the city has become uncompetitive for that reason in attracting new economic development.
An interchange at State Highway 111 and Highway 14 at Nicollet would help correct one of the most dangerous intersections on the roadway, one that MnDOT’s own safety audit cited for significantly higher crash rates. And as Highway 14 has already been expanded from North Mankato to Nicollet, the traffic will be traveling faster and create more backups for Highway 111 without an interchange. Large agricultural vehicles often use this roadway and safety would likely be compromised without an interchange.