The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 20, 2013

MnDOT capitulates to Waseca County demands with old Hwy 14

WASECA — After more than a year of high-profile debate and legal wrangling, the Minnesota Department of Transportation ended its dispute with Waseca County over old Highway 14 by agreeing to pay the entire cost of renovating the roadway.

“The county is very pleased with this,” said by Justin Weinberg, the attorney for Waseca and Steele counties. “It's exactly what we were looking (to achieve).”

MnDOT nullified Waseca County's dispute over MnDOT's funding for the 19-mile stretch of former state highway between Owatonna and Janesville by agreeing to the settlement drafted by Weinberg. Waseca County's dispute revolves around its rejection of MnDOT's turnback funding proposals, which exceeded $13 million in some offers, as insufficient to bring the roadway into "acceptable condition."

MnDOT provides turnback funding to local governments when it ceases maintaining a roadway. The four-lane expansion of Highway 14 changed the route of the highway, resulting in old Highway 14 becoming separated from the main traffic flow.

The debate between MnDOT and Waseca County lasted long enough to exceed state funding deadlines, resulting in MnDOT handing over ownership of old Highway 14 in December 2012 without any turnback funding. Waseca County responded with a lawsuit and threats it would vacate the roadway.

MnDOT and Waseca County came to their agreement in late October. MnDOT will cover the entire cost of reconstructing the urban portions of old Highway 14 in Waseca and Janesville and will cover the cost of replacing roadway on the rural segments with 5 inches of concrete overlay.

Waseca and Janesville will cover the cost of installing new utility lines during construction. Waseca County will be responsible for covering the cost of any additional work it requests beyond MnDOT's assigned construction. No additional work has been determined yet.

Cost estimates can't be determined until bids are received for the work.

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