Highway 14 project moving forward, commissioner says

February 24, 2019

Minnesota Commissioner of Finance and Budget Myon Frans said Friday that a language mistake in a bill to fund the U.S. Highway 14 project is in the process of being fixed.

“We provided language that they’re now passing through the Legislature,” Frans told a Rochester audience at Rochester Golf and Country Club. “We’ll continue the bidding process this year so we’re back on track.”

“I go by Highway 14, and the damn thing needs to be fixed,” Frans added.

Nine months ago, the Legislature approved $160 million in funding through a bonding bill to expand the 13-mile section between Owatonna and Dodge center to a four-land roadway. It had taken years for Greater Minnesota legislators to secure the funding, and the success was celebrated by the popping of champagne corks.

But then a wording issue in the bonding bill cropped up, and transportation officials warned that without a language fix, the project could be delayed two to four years.

“It’s frustrating, because you don’t know really what the true reason is,” state Sen. John Jasinski, a Faribault Republican, told a local newspaper. Jasinski has made completion of Highway 14 a top priority during his time in office.

The topic came up Friday during a Rochester Chamber of Commerce event when GOP state Rep. Duane Quam asked about the project. He noted that the objectionable language was provided to Sen. Dave Senjem by Minnesota Department of Transportation officials.

“I don’t understand why they objected,” Quam said.

Frans didn’t specify what the language problem was. But he said he was approached by legislative leaders to see if the problem could be resolved. He said the new language should fix the problem. Since the language is included in regular legislation, as opposed to a bonding bill, it can pass with a simple majority vote rather than a three-fifths majority vote.