Hwy 14 bills to get hearing today

NEW ULM – Bills to ensure the Highway 14 four-lane expansion project is put on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s 20-year highway investment plan will get a hearing today in the state Senate.

The first bill, which had exact copies introduced in the House, requires the MnDOT commissioner to put the expansion of Highway 14 on MnDOT’s 20-year plan. MnDOT indicated last year it was unlikely to include Highway 14. Advocates for the project have worried this situation could cripple their efforts, because the project could only gain access to any new federal funding if it’s on MnDOT’s plan.

The project would require four-lane divided highways from Highway 218 near Owatonna to southeast of the interchange with Highway 56 and from New Ulm to County Highway 6 west of North Mankato, which is the end of recent four-lane expansion announced by MnDOT last year. The project would also mandate interchanges at Highway 14’s intersection with Highway 15, County Highway 42 and Highway 169.

The bill mandates the project cannot be delayed and must remain on the 20-year plan until completed, unless the chairs and ranking minority leaders of related legislative committees are notified of unforeseen circumstances.

An accompanying bill provides $431.6 million in funding for the project. The bill calls for $219 million for four-lane expansion of Highway 14 between Owatonna and Dodge Center and $212.6 million for four-lane expansion on Highway 14 between New Ulm and County Highway 6. The funds would be available for five years after its appropriation.

The appropriations bill on the Senate side will get a hearing in the Transportation and Public Safety Division committee this afternoon. The hearing will be broadcast live on the Minnesota Senate website. The bills are planned to be set aside for inclusion in an omnibus bill later in the session. A hearing for the House version of the bill is still pending.

(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at jmoniz@nujournal.com)

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