NICOLLET, Minn. (KEYC) — It will be this time in 2022 before the Highway 14 four-lane expansion is complete, a massive project to benefit the community in more ways than one.
“The road was originally constructed in 1938, so all we’ve done is patched and repaired it for the last 80 years,” said Zak Tess, MnDOT project manager for the Highway 14 expansion project.
Highway 14 is one of the most dangerous roads in Minnesota, seeing more than 145 fatalities, and countless more injuries, since the mid-80s. That makes other elements to the project critical to improving safety - including new bridges and interchanges in Courtland and New Ulm, similar to the one constructed in 2016 in Nicollet.
Many crashes happen during winter months, when the exposed highway is covered with ice and snow drifts. Tess says that will change.
“We’ll be installing these snow fences. They’re about eight feet high, they look like metal pipes. They’re about 100 feet out from the highway. That really helps with the drifting concerns, the blow ice concerns.”
After safety, assisting local economies is a project goal.
According to MnDOT, more than 12% of Highway 14 traffic is made up of heavy commercial vehicles, such as farm equipment, semi-trucks and buses. That’s over 50% higher than the average Minnesota highway.
Efforts to fund the final expansion were championed by citizens and community leaders, including Nicollet Mayor Fred Froehlich, who responded to several serious crashes when he served for the fire department, and made it his goal to get Nicollet involved with the Highway 14 partnership.
“This is a bedroom community and our people commute back and forth to New Ulm, to Mankato, so our residents have been directly affected by injuries and deaths on this highway,” Froehlich said.
Froehlich is also hopeful about an economic boost the expansion could bring to the City of Nicollet, including one new business just presented to the city on Monday.
"There will be a Dollar General going up and that should spur some economic growth as far as commercial development out on that end of town next to the highway.”
It’s been more than 50 years since expansion began on portions of Highway 14. So though we’re two years out from a completed expansion.
“The road to finishing Highway 14, it’s in sight,” Tess added.