Just as the upgrade of Highway 14 was a signature issue in the recent House District 19A special election, discussion of the dangerous Southern Minnesota road dominated the race for Senate District 24 to the east.
Newly-elected Senator Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna) has assumed a high profile in local media covering the journey of legislation Jensen and state representative Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato) have introduced to fix the road.
In Southern Minnesotans pitch case to improve Highway wy 14 to Senate panel, Mankato Free Press staff writer Tim Krohn reports:
. . .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.)
. . . 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 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.
. . . 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.
Read the entire article at the Free Press. In the New Ulm Journal article, Highway 14: A Road Too Narrow, Josh Moniz reports:
. . .Highway 14 gained attention in the last few years as possibly the most dangerous highway in Minnesota. The segment between New Ulm and Mankato was determined to have a fatal crash rate three times the state average for similar highways, according to a report by Minnesota Department of Transportation. Advocates of the four-lane expansion project have argued it is the only way to improve safety on the highway as well as unleash significant economic growth for cities with heavy trucking like New Ulm. . . .
Over on Jensen's turf, Al Strain of the Owatonna People's Press reports in Highway 14 Partnership makes bid to get completion back on MnDOT's 20-year plan:
. . .With a new state Legislature in place and a new face backing its proposal, the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership returned to the State Capital on Wednesday to request that the highway’s completion be put back in the 20-year plan for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Appearing in front of the state Senate Committee for Transportation and Public Safety, public figures and business representatives from across southern Minnesota pleaded their case for the highway’s completion in a new bill authored by state Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, who also sits on the committee.
“I couldn’t go anywhere in my district (24) and not have a discussion about Highway 14,” Jensen said during the hearing. “It’s nice to do it at this level.”
Read the rest of Strain's article at the OPP.
Jensen has easily stepped in her role as senator after years of being a Main Street mainstay in Owatonna's business community. Let's hope the Brynaert and Jensen team succeed on getting Highway 14 back on MNDOT's fast track.
Photo: Members of the HWY 14 Partnership testifying in front of the Senate Transportation Comiittee today in support of the continued expansion of the HWY 14 corridor. Via Senator Jensen's Facebook page.
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