ST. PAUL - New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman, 1st District Rep. Tim Walz and Highway 14 Partnership advocates met with Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Commissioner Charles Zelle on Thursday to strongly urge Highway 14's inclusion in MnDOT's 20-year plan.
Advocates for the completion of Highway 14's four-lane expansion project learned last year, that MnDOT did not plan to include the project in its new 20-year plan. If the project is not included, regulations would not allow any new federal funds to be dedicated toward it. Supporters argued that Highway 14's fatal crash rate at three times the state's average posed a serious safety issue.
Walz favors completing projects for Highway 14 and Highway 60. He emphasized that any success in getting new funding passed at the federal level would leave these projects without a way to benefit if they are not in the 20-year plan.
Beussman said New Ulm could not grow until the segment from New Ulm to North Mankato is four-lanes. He said this is equally true for the high amount of trucking business originating in New Ulm.
After the meeting, Beussman said Zelle agreed that Highway 14 needed to be included in the 20-year plan, but that there were lots of other highways also in need of improvements.
Zelle said Highway 14's four-lane expansion needed to be completed, and that he just needed a funding source to tackle these types of projects, Beussman reported.
The deadline for the rough draft of MnDOT's 20-year highway plan is June. The final version will be released in August.
The group also discussed a variety of strategies for developing funding to help MnDOT's tight budget take on more projects.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)