Article by: Tom Monson
Dodge County expressed the importance of completing Highway 14 during the September 11, town hall style Dodge County Hwy 14 Economic Impact Meeting held in Dodge Center City Hall. One month later on October 7, Governor Dayton announced $7.3 million in financing for the Dodge County portion of Highway 14. Roughly 40 individuals representing businesses, communities, and families were present for the legislative update from the head lobbyist of the Highway 14 Partnership, Amanda Duerr (Flaherty & Hood), and construction and engineering update from the MNDOT Engineer Gregory Paulson. Many voiced their thoughts and concerns about the current status of the US Highway including County Commissioners Steven Gray (District 4) and David Erickson (District 5), (then) County Sherriff Jim Jensen, and State Senator Dave Senjem. Due to the creation of the Corridors of Commerce program, the state financing for this project is allocated through a competitive process measured by economic impact. The local CEDA associate created, organized, and emceed the event by leveraging the strategic network of Dodge County Economic Development Authority, particularly its partnership with the Highway 14 Partnership.
US Highway 14 bisects Dodge County going east and west and serves to connect Southern Minnesota regional centers including Winona, Rochester, Owatonna, Waseca, Mankato, and New Ulm running from the WI border to SD border. In three locations, Highway 14 drops from four to two lanes, having negative repercussions on the safety, efficiency, and competitiveness of this crucial infrastructure. The eastern most of these three locations is midway through Dodge County, extending 15.1 miles from just west of Dodge Center until the eastern edge of Owatonna. A major roadblock for the completion of this project has been Right-of-Way Acquisition, which was estimated to cost over $20 million just to purchase the necessary land. The $7.3 million announced in October is allocated through the Corridors of Commerce Program and will be directed to purchasing Right-of-Way for Segment 2 of the project as designated by MnDOT.