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Rural leaders criticize omissions in Corridors of Commerce awards

Faribault DailyNews/ Suzy Rook on May 1, 2018

State Rep. Paul Torkelson, the House Transportation Committee chair, is blasting the Department of Transportation for its newly released list of $417 million in highway projects, saying it fails to heed to outstate needs.

"We have critical corridors like Hwy. 23 in western Minnesota, Hwy. 14 in southern Minnesota, and countless others in desperate need of upgrades and repairs that are being completely ignored by this Metro-centric project list," said Torkelson, a Republican from Hanska in Brown County. "It's astonishing that MnDOT would select four projects with massive price tags all within 50 miles of 

Sen. John Jasinski, vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and State Rep. Paul Torkelson, the House Transportation Committee chair.

Minneapolis and St. Paul — it's clear that changes are needed to ensure a more balanced approach for the Corridors of Commerce program moving forward."

Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, also criticized MnDOT's funding choices, particularly the omission of the Hwy. 14 expansion between Owatonna and Dodge Center.

“I am incredibly disappointed that Gov. Dayton’s Department of Transportation chose to ignore Hwy. 14 yet again. Corridors of Commerce funding has traditionally been split 50-50 between the metro and greater Minnesota, yet every project announced today is within 40 miles of downtown Minneapolis. How can anyone say with a straight face that greater Minnesota is being treated fairly by the Department of Transportation?"

In a news release issued Tuesday morning, MnDOT announced awards for four projects, part of the Corridors of Commerce program, which will begin during the next four years.

“Since 2013, the Corridors of Commerce program has funded projects that are important to the health of our transportation system and business climate, but not afforded in our four-year transportation investment plan,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “The selected projects will enhance the movement of freight and people in the regions where these projects are located which will aid the economy and reduce congestion.”

The four projects receiving 2018 funding:

• Highway 169 in Elk River (greater Minnesota) – estimate up to $157 million

• Highway 494, France Avenue to Highway 77 (Metro District) – estimate up to $134 million

• Highway 494, Bush Lake Road to Interstate 35W (Metro District) – estimate up to $70 million

• Highway 94, St. Michael to Albertville (greater Minnesota) – estimate up to $56 million

Dave Smiglewski, Granite Falls mayor and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, also knocked the selection, saying they "demonstrate a massive failure on MnDOT’s part to address transportation needs statewide."