Highway 14 Partnership concerned MnDOT may prioritize metro
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is planing to roll out a change to the scoring system for Corridors of Commerce highway funding project that could put Highway 14 at a disadvantage.
If implemented, the new scoring system prioritizes highway projects connecting to the Twin Cities metro by allowing for higher scores and capping non-metro highway at a lower level. Under the new system Highway 14 could only receive a system score of 90 at best, while highways running through the Twin Cities could receive a maximum of 100 point.
In response to this change the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership has issued a statement strongly opposing the revised highway scoring system.
President of the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership and Mankato City Council member Karen Foreman said, “Corridors of Commerce has been a valuable source of funding for Highway 14 in recent years, but MnDOT’s proposed scoring system would put our ability to access those funds at risk.”
The Partnership submitted a formal letter to MnDOT officials outlining these concerns.
“Under MnDOT’s plan, highways that go through Eden Prairie or Wayzata would score higher than a highway that connects Rochester or Mankato,” Foreman said. “For those who live and work along the corridor, Highway 14 is the lifeblood of our communities and economics. A scoring system that handicaps a corridor like Highway 14 from the outset belies the priorities of the Corridors of Commerce program.”
The Partnership is also concerned metro-area interest may lead MnDOT to consider lowering Greater Minnesota’s share of the Corridor of Commerce funding. Since the program was created in 2013, Corridors of Commerce has divided funding 50-50 between Greater Minnesota and the Metro area. Recently MnDOT has begun soliciting feedback on whether the 50-50 split should remain.
The Partnership became concerned about the status of the 50-50 split following contradictory information given at MnDOT meetings with Area Transportation Partnership. During a meeting in Rochester on Nov. 17 attendees were shown a presentation indicating the funding would remain 50-50, but two weeks later during a Dec 1 meeting in Mankato MnDOT said in a presentation it had not settled on a division of funds and was seeking input.
“The Highway 14 Partnership is strongly opposed to any efforts to deviate from the 50-50 split,” Foreman said. “If MnDOT chooses to move toward an arrangement that favors one area of the state over another, it would be detrimental to not only Highway 14, but other Greater Minnesota projects as well.”
By moving away from historic norms, MnDOT would pit regions of the state against one another and result in a state government picking economic winners and losers, according to the Partnership.
New Ulm Mayor Robert Beussman is a member of the Highway 14 Partnership and agrees with the letter submitted by Foreman.
Beussman said the revised scoring prioritizes expansion projects that fill a gap in existing corridor systems, which Beussman said the Partnership supports. He argued that with the planned Highway 14/15 interchange project, the section from Nicollet to New Ulm should qualify as a gap in need of filling. MnDOT has already designed a four-lane interchange.
Beussman said the expansion of Highway 14 benefits both the economic good of New Ulm as it improves shipping and addresses safety concerns because two-lane highways increase the risk of accidents.
“I’ve been pushing for a Highway 14 expansion since becoming mayor,” Beussman said. “New Ulm has been waiting for this expansion for 50 years.”
The U.S. Highway 14 Partnership formed in 1998 and is an advocacy organization supporting the four-lane expansion of Highway 14.