MANKATO - The Minnesota Department of Transportation's final gathering of public comments for its 20-year State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP) takes place today across the state.
A public hearing runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at MnDOT's Central Office in St. Paul. It will be simultaneously shown by video at each MnDOT regional office, including the District 7 office at 2151 Bassett Drive in Mankato.
The MnSHIP plan sets priorities for the entire state. The current plan extends to 2017 for specific items, and it includes generalized outlines of plans for the next 20 years
The draft version of the 20-year plan can be viewed at www.dot.state.mn.us/planning/mnship/
Written comments on the 20-year plan will be accepted through July 31. Address letters to Ryan Wilson, MnDOT Office of Capital Programs and Performance Measures, 395 John Ireland Blvd, MS 440, St. Paul, MN 55155. All e-mails should be directed to email@example.com.
Highway 14's future
A key local issue with the 20-year plan is the absence the four-lane expansion of Highway 14. The only portion of Highway 14 included in MnDOT spending priorities is North Mankato to Nicollet that was promised by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2012, which is set to be completed by 2017 or 2018.
The remaining two-lane segments from Nicollet to New Ulm and from Dodge Center to Owatonna are not included in the plan and have no investment priority.
Highway 14 advocates have considered inclusion in the 20-year plan a priority after learning the four-lane expansion would not be included. They fear Highway 14 will be unable to access any potential windfall of federal highway funding if the project is not part of the official plan.
They have expressed serious concerns that MnDOT will no longer work to complete the project. Advocates have pushed for the four-lane expansion for decades due to the highway's high fatal crash rate and its use for commerce.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)