In one of its final acts before taking a month-long pause in response to the COVID-19 spread, the Minnesota legislature approved a bill in the wee hours of March 17 that paves the way for the state to finally complete the U.S. Highway 14 expansion from Nicollet to New Ulm.

The bill is chief authored by Sen. Nick Frentz of North Mankato in the Senate and Rep. Jeff Brand of St. Peter in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls and Rep. Paul Torkelson of Hanska have historically carried the bill.

“This is wonderful news for our communities,” said Dahms. “For 10 years I’ve worked and waited to see Highway 14 funding materialize. We have a plan in place that is good for drivers, community members and taxpayers. I’m grateful to my colleagues, who have been supportive and helpful in getting this bill passed.” 

“I am very pleased that the House and Senate were able to pass Highway 14 legislation on a night when COVID-19 funding was clearly our top priority,” Torkelson said. “This legislation represents the final section that will create four lanes from Rochester to New Ulm, and it would not have been possible without the previous funding actions taken by the legislature over the past number of years.”

The bill allows the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to secure a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan through the federal department of transportation for the final portion of the project.

The Rural Project Initiative and the Build America Bureau administer the loan. No tax dollars will be used to pay off the loan, as the bill dictates that it would be repaid using overweight vehicle fees. Fees are currently placed in the state treasury and credited to the trunk highway fund.

The loan may only be used to fund Highway 14. The time frame for the project is dependent on the state’s deliverance of proof and source of payment to the federal government.

Once Minnesota’s credit is approved, the U.S. Department of Transportation will invite MnDOT to formally submit applications for review.

MnDOT expects that construction could begin as early as Fall 2021 and the expected completion date in late 2023.