Dayton makes announcement about Hwy. 14

Published 9:37 am Tuesday, June 26, 2012

By Mark Fischenich, Mankato Free Press

MANKATO — Gov. Mark Dayton was in  Mankato today for what many officials were expecting to be an announcement that Highway 14 between North Mankato and Nicollet will become a four-lane in the near future.

Dayton was slated to be at the local Minnesota Department of Transportation headquarters at 9 a.m. to make the announcement.

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For several years, efforts by area civic and political leaders to get the project included in MnDOT’s 20-year construction schedule have been unsuccessful.

Former North Mankato Mayor and Highway 14 Partnership member Gary Zellmer said Dayton knows how adamant Highway 14 advocates are about a four-lane. Zellmer doesn’t think the governor would come to Mankato for a press conference announcing only a median barrier-type improvement.

“Not a chance,” Zellmer said. “I’d guess it’s going to be a pretty substantial announcement.”

Local advocates’ optimism about getting the four-lane to Nicollet arose when it was announced by MnDOT earlier this year that it could be constructed for as little as $15 million to $18 million.

“When that came out, suddenly it seemed like that was very, very attainable,” Zellmer said.

State Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, is predicting more than a stop-gap safety fix: “I will be there and I anticipate a major announcement.”

While walking in the Nicollet Friendship Days parade on Sunday, Morrow’s van had these words written on the side windows: “Hwy. 14 news coming soon.”

Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, said she and Morrow met with the governor and he understands that MnDOT’s proposals involving median barriers might reduce crashes but won’t address the economic development concerns of the region. Only a four-lane expansion can take care of both problems, Dayton understands that, and he’s unlikely to be coming to Mankato if the solution doesn’t address both, Sheran said.

“He wouldn’t come otherwise,” she said.