Groundbreaking set for project to expand southern Minnesota highway to four lanes

Published 5:42 am Tuesday, October 29, 2019

By Andrew Krueger

MPR News/90.1

Funding is in place, a contractor is selected — and now a groundbreaking will take place Friday for a project to expand U.S. Highway 14 to four lanes between Owatonna and Dodge Center in southern Minnesota.

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The 12.5-mile, $108 million project is years in the making and represents the final link in upgrading the well-traveled highway to four lanes between Mankato and Rochester.

“It’s big on so many levels,” said Mike Dougherty, director of public engagement and communications for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s District 6. “We’ve got the commuting; there are a number of people that live in that region that either commute to Rochester, commute to Owatonna. (And) there are some large manufacturing operations in Dodge Center and elsewhere that rely on folks to come through there. It’s two-lane through there. It’s 55 (mph). So it can kind of bottle up from time to time.”

In addition to improving traffic flow, Dougherty said the project is aimed at increasing safety along a stretch of highway that has seen serious crashes.

The ceremonial groundbreaking is taking place this month after MnDOT secured the necessary funding and awarded the project to Shafer Contracting. Design and planning work will take place over the winter; major work will begin next spring and last through 2022.

“The one good thing about this project is we’re building a new path for Highway 14,” Dougherty said. For the most part, “it won’t disrupt the current Highway 14 during construction. … All in all, folks will be able to come and go on the current Highway 14 and we’ll be building a new road offline.”

Once the new four-lane highway is complete, the old two-lane Highway 14 will be turned back to Steele and Dodge counties.

The project is receiving money from the state’s “Corridors of Commerce” program; it provides extra funding for projects to improve the movement of freight. The $108 million Highway 14 project is roughly equivalent to District 6’s annual road construction budget, Dougherty said — so the project would not have been possible with the extra funding.

Friday’s groundbreaking will take place at 2 p.m. Friday along Highway 14 east of Owatonna. Find more information about the event and the project here.

“It’ll create a lot more opportunities for the region in their manufacturing, in addressing growth spurts that some of these communities are seeing,” Dougherty said of the project. “We’re happy to be able to connect everyone.”