The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 16, 2013

New Ulm rally urges last-minute Highway 14 funding

Pending 20-year MnDOT plan ends expansion at Nicollet

(Continued)

Beussman also wants to see more of a commitment in the 20-year plan to continue the momentum for the expansion beyond the North Mankato-to-Nicollet project.

"Six-point-five miles of progress on the entire Highway 14 corridor over the next 20 years is unacceptable," he said.

The press conference was the last of three Monday, with similar groups of business leaders and elected officials rallying with the Mankato Democrat in Rochester and Owatonna.

Walz and Beussman said they expect the final MnDOT plan to be released in the next few weeks and urged supporters of Highway 14 to lobby Dayton about the safety and economic necessity of funding more of the expansion. Walz said it's crucial in obtaining funding at the federal level to be able to show that a project is also a state-funding priority.

"We can't rest and we won't rest until this is completed," Walz said.

Under MnDOT's plan, "Regional and Community Improvement Priorities" are allocated $520 million from 2014-2023 — and the project between North Mankato and Nicollet is at the top of the list of examples in that category. In the second decade, however, funding for the category drops to zero.

Over the two decades, about $18 billion in revenue is expected for about $30 billion in transportation needs. In the face of that $12 billion funding gap, the plan focuses its second-decade spending almost exclusively on preservation of the existing road and bridge system, something MnDOT officials say will be necessary to meet federal maintenance requirements and to preserve the state's bond rating.

It won't be popular, the plan concedes: "... Public opinion of MnDOT is likely to decline during this period."

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