US Highway 14 west of North Mankato
MANKATO, Minn. - A new three-phase strategy aims to make one of Minnesota's deadliest highways safer for motorists.
Governor Mark Dayton announced the safety strategy that targets a troubled stretch of U.S. Highway 14 that runs through south central Minnesota. The strategy includes immediate action to improve driver safety and a commitment by MnDOT to expand the highway to four lanes from North Mankato to Nicollet.
"This segment of Highway 14 has proven to be particularly dangerous, and today's actions will be important steps to reduce both congestion and accidents," said Governor Dayton.
"I remain committed to making Highway 14 a four-lane highway 'from border to border' (Minnesota's western border to its eastern border). The frustrating slowness in achieving that goal underscores the critical need to find more resources for highway improvements throughout Minnesota."
"Too many people have lost a friend, a neighbor or a loved one on Highway 14. We're here today because Highway 14 is too dangerous. This road needs to be fixed," said Congressman Tim Walz (MN-01). "I want to thank Governor Dayton for his commitment to improve Minnesota's most dangerous stretch of highway. This is a big step forward, but there is still work to be done on Highway 14."
"MnDOT conducted a road safety audit earlier this year," said MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel. "One of the findings in the RSA was that drivers along this stretch have a lower rate of seat belt use and tend to drive faster than posted speed limits. We are working with the State Patrol to provide more enforcement to address those issues as well other driver behaviors that contribute to crashes."
The Minnesota Department of Transportation's three-phase strategy has already begun to address the safety issues and reduce crashes, and will continue to do so until the four-lane work is complete. The first phase of the strategy, which is already being implemented, is increased traffic enforcement to crack down on potentially dangerous driving behavior that has been common on this stretch of highway. The second phase calls for the construction of a widened median to create a buffer between the existing two lanes of traffic. The final phase of the project will be a four lane expansion of Highway 14 from North Mankato to Nicollet. The third phase of the project is expected to begin construction in 2017 or 2018, with a total cost for all three phases of between $21.5 million and 35 million.
The expanded two-lane project fits in with MnDOT's Corridor Investment Management Strategy, which looks for road investments that are efficient and effective. The Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths initiative also will increase its efforts in the area to educate drivers about safe driving.
Gov. Mark Dayton is in Mankato Tuesday to announce new plans for Highway 14 between North Mankato and Nicollet.
Local leaders have been trying for years to get a four-lane improvement project in the state's transportation construction plans, but so far, no luck. There was renewed hope by supporters of the project when the Minnesota Department of Transportation recently found the highway could be improved for as little as $15 million.
The Free Press reports local officials say median barriers would improve safety, but wouldn't address the economic development concerns of the region.
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