Highway 14 plans attract a lot of interest

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Tim Kohn, Courtland, left, and Shane Kraus, New Ulm, right, were among attendees at the Highway 14 New Ulm to Nicollet Task Force open house at the Courtland Community Center Feb. 1. The task force is charged with providing recommendations to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) District 7 that make the best use of potential transportation funding.

COURTLAND — U.S. Highway 14 evening rush-hour traffic backed up at several intersections in Courtland, as dozens of people mulled over designs of a proposed four-lane expansion project at the Courtland Community Center Feb. 2.

The project remains unfunded, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is advancing the design and environmental processes to be prepared for potential program funding from entities including the Minnesota Legislature’s Corridors of Commerce.

Much of the four-lane highway project will follow the existing two-lane route. Proposals include a northern bypass of Courtland with two possible interchanges.

Another possible interchange is located at the Highway 14 intersection with Nicollet CR 37 that links with 20th Street South in New Ulm. A full-access intersection is proposed at the Highway 14 intersection with the road leading to Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School.

“I think the plans look great. I certainly hope the plan is accepted,” said Nicollet Mayor Fred Froelich.

Nicollet County Sheriff Dave Lange sounded cautiously optimistic.

“Anything they do will make traffic safety better,” Lange said. “A big issue now is addressing intersections. The Highway 14 Task Force wants interchanges.”

Lange said most people prefer interchanges, while the highway department built less-costly J-turns or R-cut intersections at Eagle Lake and Highway 60 or on U.S. 169 north of St. Peter.

At R-cut intersections, crossing traffic turns right and travels about 700 feet, then makes a U-turn and comes back.

Several years ago when the highway expansion project centered at Nicollet, the Nicollet City Council rejected MnDOT’s proposal that didn’t include an interchange at the intersection of Highways 14 and 111. The city council passed a resolution to not work with MnDOT on the project unless an interchange was built.

Nicollet eventually got the overpass interchange it wanted.

Last week, Mountain Lake and area officials voiced opposition to MnDOT’s R-cut proposal at a State Highway 60 intersection, seeking a more costly overpass interchange. But some interest was voiced for more acceleration and deceleration lanes in the less-costly options. Project discussion will continue in Mountain Lake Feb. 12.

Other issues to be addressed by the Highway 14 Task Force include:

• Should the Highway 14 four-lane project end at CR 37, Highway 15 or someplace else?

• What type of access best serves Courtland with safety, mobility, accessibility, and growth?

• How do safety versus construction costs impacts affect Highway 14 between New Ulm Quartzite Quarry and Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School and the historic Kohn Barn?

• Should the Highway 14 project be part of the new Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Minnesota River State Trail or adjacent to it?

Guiding principles listed by the task force include enhancing growth, improving safety and mobility, creating a competitive edge and leveraging investments.

Suggestions and comments can be made at www.mnhwy14.com/ through Feb. 15. Use an interactive map of the project corridor.

A second open house to review draft concepts and a preliminary task force recommendation will be held at the Courtland Community Center, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22.

For more information, visit www.mndot.gov/newulm/.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.