Reflecting on the efforts to secure Highway 14 expansion

An organized push to get Highway 14 expanded all the way from New Ulm to Rochester began 25 years ago with the creation of the Highway 14 Partnership.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 10:19 PM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - “To see it come to fruition after all these years, it’s really gonna be a great opportunity for our citizens and traveling public,” said Dr. Mark Dehen.

An organized push to get Highway 14 expanded all the way from New Ulm to Rochester began 25 years ago with the creation of the Highway 14 Partnership. It’s been a collaboration between local, state and the federal government and they are celebrating the final leg of its mission with a ribbon cutting tomorrow, right on Highway 14. While the partnership has existed since 1998, this project has been discussed in local communities for decades longer.

“My father was mayor of Eagle Lake in ‘71 and ‘72 and they were talking about it then, in fact I talked with a former MNDOT employee who said they had talked about it in the 60s,” said Dehen.

Dr. Mark Dehen served on the board of directors of the Highway 14 partnership. By the time he started his eventual twelve-year tenure as Mayor of North Mankato, the highway had seen expansions from Highway 60 to Smith’s Mill in 2003 and then further West to Waseca in 2006.

“This sign was the mantra for the entire time I was mayor, “Fix 14 Now,” so I’m really looking forward to retiring this button and finally having it done,” Dehen said.

Dehen left the mayor’s office after being elected to a seat on the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners in 2022. His and many others’ fight to expand Highway 14 was won full funding was announced in 2020.

The announcement brought relief for those who have feared for their safety while driving the road, which saw many fatal crashes over the years.

“Everyone we know has lost someone on this corridor, and to see it finally be improved from a safety perspective and to limit that down now is a blessing for all of us,” Dehen said.

Partners at the Minnesota legislature say advocates prioritized safety during this project’s planning and recognize the loss that will be felt as this expansion opens.

As traffic opens on the Nicollet to New Ulm four-lane expansion, so does economic opportunity.

“We’ve seen those safety improvements become a reality, we’ve also seen economic development follow. In different parts of the corridor, warehousing, distribution, other industries,” said Shane Zahrt.

Tomorrow marks the ribbon cutting event for the Highway 14 Expansion.

Among the dignitaries, Governor Walz, and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan will help cut the ribbon just after 11 tomorrow morning.

Senator Amy Klobuchar; Representative Brad Finstad; State Senator Nick Frentz; Representative Jeff Brand, along with the mayor of Courtland and officials from MnDOT will also be on hand.

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