On Aug.10, the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership board of directors met to discuss the Partnership’s plans for the 2016 election and the 2017 legislative session. Two sections of U.S. Highway 14 remain: 12 miles from New Ulm to Nicollet and 12.5 miles from Owatonna to Dodge Center, and currently there are no funds available to finish either section.
The 2016 legislative session had potential: The bonding bill contained a cash appropriation for Highway 14 to pay for preliminary work such as land acquisition and engineering for both remaining sections. However, a partisan dispute over metro area light rail led to the failure of the bonding bill. Legislative leaders and the Governor continue to talk about a possible special session; however, the time is quickly running out.
At last week’s meeting, Highway 14 Partnership board members discussed the need for a bi-partisan, comprehensive transportation funding bill. They discussed possible funding sources and agreed that a gas tax increase needed to be seriously considered for any possible comprehensive bill. Most importantly, they stressed that any transportation funding bill must include a pathway to completion of Highway 14.
The discussion also covered messaging in advance of the election and next legislative session. We need to remind the Legislature and our public how much progress has already been made. There has been real progress on Highway 14: Since the beginning of the project in the 1960s, over 90 miles have been converted to four lanes at a state investment of just under $395 million. Over all, it is a project of about 115 miles—only 24.5 remain to be completed.
But until legislators reach agreement on new funding for transportation and on metro transit, Highway 14 will have to wait like so many other projects. Look for updates to talk about Highway 14 during the 2016 election and the legislative agenda to follow. Thanks for all of you support and let’s work together to FIX 14 NOW!