ST. PAUL —
Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, is sponsoring the Senate bill while Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, is sponsoring the House version.
The bill would appropriate nearly $432 million. Just less than half the money — about $213 million — would be used to purchase land and construct New Ulm link while the rest — $219 million — would be used for the Owatonna piece.
In what the chairman of the Transportation Finance Committee called “show and tell day,” backers of several highway improvement bills from around the state made their pitch for increased safety and economic impact. No action was taken at the Wednesday afternoon meeting.
In an interview with The Free Press prior to the hearing, Jensen said she and Brynaert wanted to include the entire corridor in one bill.
“The corridor is important to the whole region. We’ve been talking about a four-lane the entire way since the 1960s,” Jensen said. “Going from four lanes to two lanes is a real problem.”
While many of the other highway projects being pushed Wednesday were aimed at relieving congestion in the metro area, Jensen and Brynaert said Highway 14 has the strongest case because of safety issues.
“There are other corridors, Highway 10 and 52 with similar safety and economic development concerns,” Brynaert said. “But we do know that our safety data puts us pretty much at the top of the list. I think that’s had an effect on the awareness of the other legislators.”
And Jensen said things will only get more dangerous on Highway 14. Projections are that semi-truck traffic will increase about 57 percent by 2020 on the four-lane near New Ulm and by 50 percent near Owatonna.
Brynaert said no one expects lawmakers are going to appropriate the money for the project this session, but said it’s vital the project is planned for.
“The bottom line is to get Highway 14 in that 20-year MnDOT plan — that is really critical. And we need to keep it at the table with other projects,” Brynaert said.