Drivers in southwest Minnesota will likely have a smile on their faces when Highway 14 near New Ulm officially reopens after having been closed since early 2022 as Minnesota Department of Transportation crews worked to make the road safer.
The $83 million project that began in Spring 2022 setout to make the road safer by expanding Highway 14 from two lanes to four lanes.
“Between the cities of New Ulm and Mankato there's been a strong interest in not Highway 14 be head-to-head traffic and having it more of a four lane divided highway for a variety of reasons,” said Todd Kjolstad, a project supervisor for MnDOT. “For the efficiency, as well as for the safety and with the realignment of certain portions in the addition of the extra lanes, I think people are going to be absolutely happy to be on this road and have it be more efficient for them so certainly more safe.”
Along with the increased safety, Kjolstad said the improvements increase Highway 14's capacity which is particularly crucial for the agriculture traffic that the highway sees throughout the year.
“Certainly the agricultural portion of it is important and while we are at the tail end of those types of activities down here we certainly will be moving agricultural products as well as other products along this corridor from western Minnesota through Highway 14 and ultimately on and beyond to Rochester. So Highway 14 is important from a from an economic perspective."
MnDOT delayed reopening Highway 14 to traffic by a month in October due to concrete paving delays. More work will still need to be completed after Tuesday's ribbon cutting ceremony, but there likely won't be any travel impacts.
“The actual completion of the project itself is not going to be until June of 2024, but that work will be somewhat limited to additional turf establishment and maybe some grade corrections,” Kjolstad said. “There are things of that nature, some side road aggregate placement, but with minimal to no impacts to the traveling public.”
The latest project is just part of an extensive amount of work that's taken place in the area in recent years. Construction of the New Ulm Gateway began in late 2017 with the finishing touches completed in spring 2020. The Nicollet to North Mankato project opened in 2016 that included a 2.5 mile bypass of Nicollet.