Four-lane extension of Highway 14 to New Ulm remains on track | Local News
MANKATO – The plan to complete the Highway 14 freeway by 2023, extending the final two-lane section between Nicollet and New Ulm to four lanes, continues to zoom forward despite complications from the pandemic.
A team of officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation met through Zoom and other electronic meeting applications to prepare grant applications, meet with landowners about the right-of-way purchase, and coordinate with the Federal Ministry of Transport.
“It’s amazing,” said Peter Harff, deputy district engineer in MnDOT’s Mankato office. “(The owners) have been wonderful in organizing these meetings with us. And the project team were phenomenal, working hard to get it delivered on time. “
The centerpiece of the $ 92.7 million project funding is a $ 36 million ultra-low interest loan from US DOT. If this loan goes through, MnDOT has committed to finding the remaining dollars needed to begin construction in 2022 and complete the Nicollet-New Ulm upgrade the following year.
“It sounds very, very promising,” Harff said. “Federal officials) like what we offer. They like this kind of loan. They gave us every reason to believe that we should get the loan we asked for.
The loan application will be submitted as soon as MnDOT learns of the fate of a request for a $ 50 million grant through another federal transportation program, something which is expected to be decided next month. The loan application will indicate the source of other funding for the project, so the outcome of the grant application will determine the amount of government funding that should be included. The MnDOT has also just submitted a request for a grant of $ 25 million from another federal highway program.
“Lots of irons in the fire,” said Anne Wolff, public engagement coordinator for MnDOT. “I think this just shows MnDOT’s commitment to making a difference here.”
While MnDOT commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher has pledged to somehow close the gap between the $ 36 million federal loan and the nearly $ 93 million price tag for the project, the success of securing one or two more federal grants means that less money will have to be diverted. to Highway 14 other construction and maintenance projects planned.
“Obviously we would like to get as much help as possible,” Harff said.
Assuming the loan goes through, the next big challenge will be identifying and purchasing the precise pieces of property needed to build the 12.5 miles of four lane just west of Nicollet in New Ulm. This includes an entirely new alignment for a Courtland bypass and new interchanges at Courtland and Nicollet County Road 37 on the southeast side of New Ulm.
The plan is for construction to begin as soon as weather permits in the spring of 2022 with the new section of the highway open to traffic before the end of 2023. If the project comes to fruition, it will mark the end of a multi-year effort. decades to create a safer environment and a more efficient route from Rochester, via Owatonna and Mankato, to New Ulm. Another 12.5 mile section of the two-lane Highway 14 remains near Claremont, but the four-lane extension has been funded and is already under construction.
The federal loan, which will be repaid from a portion of the fees the MnDOT collects from overweight trucks, is expected to carry an interest rate of less than 1%. That’s a good deal, given that it will allow drivers to benefit from the improved stretch of highway years, if not decades, sooner than it would have been, Harff said.
“Getting the benefits now while we benchmark the payments over time is such a good financial decision,” he said.