Both bills have been heard and discussed in House transportation committees and are moving through the legislative process. Local officials from Owatonna to Mankato have testified in their favor.
Taken together, these two initiatives represent the biggest push yet to complete Highway 14 safety and development projects after decades of fighting for them. For years, cities and counties and residents and businesses have lobbied for an improved and safer Highway 14. With a strong push from all those groups again, and more, there is a real chance this project can happen.
There already has been some success in this regard. Gov. Mark Dayton last year after hearing from residents, legislators and businesses about the dire needs of Highway 14, approved a four-lane expansion from North Mankato to Nicollet.
That was a response in part to a 2010 Free Press series that showed part of Highway 14 had a fatality rate twice the state average and a follow-up independent report by MnDOT that showed parts of it had a fatality rate three times the state average.
Now the timing seems right to push for full funding of completion of the four-lane from Rochester to New Ulm, including unfinished pieces between Owatonna and Dodge Center and Nicollet and New Ulm.
The projects would not only vastly improve safety and save lives but leverage an economic development boom across southern Minnesota.