ST. PAUL — As a friendly state Senate audience listened, a group of southern Minnesota business and civic leaders laid out their case for why two remaining sections of Highway 14 should be turned into four lanes.
Les Abraham, president of the Owatonna City Council, said the promised four-lane corridor still hasn’t been realized after 45 years.
“In 1968 when I got out of the Army, I got home and read that Highway 14 was going to be made into a four-lane from Rochester to Mankato. We got part of it done, but it’s still not all done.”
Noreen Otto of Hy-Vee Inc. told the Senate committee that the Highway 14 corridor is the prime location for future growth of the grocery store chain. Otto said the corridor needs to be upgraded not just for the safety of its 400 truck drivers, but because of the economic impact the highway has.
Aaron Lambrecht of Shelter Products, a manufacturer in New Ulm, noted that New Ulm sends out an extremely high amount of semi-truck traffic for a city of its size — trucks that have to travel on perhaps the most dangerous, deadly road in Minnesota.
Jonathan Zierdt, president/CEO of Greater Mankato Growth in Mankato, said residents and businesses need a completed four-lane corridor. He said that population growth in five counties along the corridor is expected to grow between 13 to 33 percent by 2020 and he noted that Mankato will be the home to a new Wal-Mart distribution center.
“This means the regional economy along Highway 14 is going to increase as well.”
David Berg of Mayo Clinic Health System—Owatonna and Waseca Mayor Roy Srp also spoke in support of the project.
Lawmakers are pushing a bill that would upgrade about 21 miles of two-lane from Nicollet to New Ulm and 14 miles of two-lane from Owatonna to Dodge Center. (The two-lane from Nicollet to North Mankato is already scheduled for a four-lane upgrade.)