MnDOT’s Reduced Conflict Intersection proposal in Nicollet is a creative approach in reducing high-speed collisions in a cost-effective manner. As far as interchange design is concerned, MnDOT engineers should be applauded.
However, I can’t help but think that we have a general cultural misunderstanding about the economic benefits of mobility and transportation investment.
We built highways that connected places that were never before directly connected. This was an enormous benefit to rural populations and opened up marketplaces.
The amount of value and travel-time savings that will be captured by this investment will never justify its cost. Nicollet’s current best option is: none of the above.
The former mayor of Nicollet — from his letter to the editor Dec. 21 — is correct in stating that economic activity in Nicollet will likely be diverted. Yet, he is wrong in thinking that it will be as a result of a particular interchange design. The concern ought to be the bypass itself.
If preserving a local economy is your goal, it’s confusing why one would be pro-bypass. The most sensible solution would be to not create a bypass at all. Instead, funding should first be allocated to expanding Highway 14 between North Mankato and Nicollet into a four lanes.
This can be done at approximately the same cost as the bypass and interchange. Then, when entering Nicollet for the 1.1 mile stretch, the highway should narrow into two lanes, with access points being reduced and redesigned, and the speed limit decreased.
This will allow for faster travel outside of town, safer travel within town and for the local economy to still capitalize on highway traffic. And, it will save millions of dollars.