The following editorial was published in the Mankato Free Press today. Please view it online here.
Our View: Road funding: Legislature should approve Highway 14 completion
Once again the Minnesota Legislature will take a crack at critical, sustainable road funding. In the process, it should also approve more funding for the Corridors of Commerce program to finish the four-lane expansion of Highway 14 from Rochester to New Ulm.
The Highway 14 Coalition has made that funding its top priority for the Minnesota Legislature this year. The coalition of business, governments and other groups has pushed for expansion of the road for decades.
Completion of the road as a four lane is long overdue. The Corridors of Commerce program is separate from overall transportation funding in that is it usually financed with trunk highway bonds and projects are allocated funds based on their economic development potential.
Highway 14 has already received millions of dollars through this program, including funding for the part between North Mankato and Nicollet and part of the highway east of Owatonna. Only two portions of the highway remain two lane between Rochester and New Ulm: 12 miles between Nicollet and New Ulm and 12.5 miles between Owatonna and Dodge Center.
The coalition says it is pushing for funding from Corridors of Commerce because of the failure of the Legislature over the past several years to agree to an overall transportation funding bill. The group sees the corridors funding still being viable even if the Legislature fails again to pass overall transportation funding.
We urge the Legislature to fund not only Corridors of Commerce but also an overall transportation funding bill to address the enormous backlog of road and bridge projects throughout Minnesota. Every day that goes by costs Minnesota taxpayers more in road repairs. As we’ve said repeatedly, waiting to fix roads more than doubles their cost in some cases.
All parts of the state have road projects that need to get done. Many are represented by the Republican majority. Now, even Minnesota business and labor have urged the Legislature to pass a long-term road funding bill. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and some labor unions have joined together to urge passage of long-term funding.
There are few other critical investments that the state can make that will have as high a return as adequate road funding. The GOP leadership in the Legislature really needs to step up and approve both long-term road funding and Corridors of Commerce funding.