The segment of Highway 14 between Owatonna and Dodge Center was previously included in an Environmental Impact Study process, which addressed a broader segment of Highway 14 from Owatonna to Kasson. The EIS process was completed in August 1993. The 1993 EIS defined two project segments. The first segment was an extension of the four-lane, divided expressway from Kasson to the west side of Dodge Center at Highway 56 (including the Dodge Center bypass). This project has since been constructed. The second segment involved extending the four lanes from Highway 56 to Highway 218 in Owatonna. Construction of this segment has not been completed.
With the completion of the Dodge Center to Kasson segment, and the imminent completion of the Highway 14 improvements west of I-35, MnDOT began the process of evaluating the 1993 EIS conclusions regarding the Owatonna to Dodge Center segment. This segment continues to increase in priority given traffic growth, safety concerns, and the logic of completing what will become the last segment of Highway 14 between Mankato and Rochester to be expanded to a four-lane highway. Based on the review of the 1993 EIS and the changes in transportation needs that have taken place since 1993, MnDOT concluded it was most prudent to conduct a new EIS for the Owatonna to Dodge Center segment. This decision was based on the fact that transportation needs along this corridor and MnDOT’s vision for Highway 14 have changed to a controlled access freeway design, as opposed to the expressway design assumed in the 1993 EIS.
Given the change in transportation needs, it was determined by MnDOT that the section along Highway 14 between Owatonna and Dodge Center needed to be reconsidered. In February 2007, a Scoping Decision Document (SDD) for this project was completed. This document identified the alternatives to be evaluated in the current EIS.
MnDOT began working with local, state, and federal agencies and the public to develop a broad range of alternatives nearly two years ago during development of the Highway 14 Scoping Document. Some “Scoping” alternatives were dismissed from further study based on public input, environmental considerations, consistency with local land use plans, and consistency with MnDOT’s performance goals and design guidelines. At the beginning of this current study, MnDOT developed several conceptual four-lane highway alternatives and interchanges. These were based on the alternatives recommended for additional analysis in the Scoping Document.
The alternatives were shared with a wide audience—including the public and representatives from agencies and local communities—to determine which alternatives to carry forward into detailed environmental review in the EIS.
The Draft EIS includes three primary alternatives. Alternative 1 is considered the No-Build (Do-Nothing), Alternative 2 proposes to improve the highway on it’s existing alignment, and Alternative 3 proposes to shift the highway alignment south of the railroad tracks. Within the two build alternatives (Alts. 2 & 3) there are several interchange location options being considered.
Access to Hwy 14
The improved Highway 14 will be constructed as a freeway. Private accesses will not be provided to the highway. Instead, less direct access will be provided by a system of frontage roads and interchanges. The Draft EIS discusses how each alternative would provide access to the improved highway. At this time, drivers access Highway 14 from roads that cross the highway or from driveways on land abutting the highway. Highways with little or no access control—like existing US 14—are less efficient and have more safety problems than those with access control and limited access points.
MnDOT is studying the potential for new interchanges at County Road 45, County Road 59, near the City of Claremont, and near Highway 56. Interchanges provide the safest means for traffic to enter and exit highways. Safety is generally improved because turning traffic and crossing movements are removed, and because drivers access/exit the highway from interchange ramps.
The project schedule listed below is anticipated only. The actual duration of the environmental review/approval and selection of a preferred alternative for the project will depend largely on the number of comments received during the Draft EIS comment period. No funding for construction has been identified at this time. A summary of the project schedule is as follows:
- Scoping Process Completed in March 2007
- Complete Draft EIS 2008
- Identification of Preferred alternative late 2009
- Complete Final EIS and Design early 2010
- Construction not currently scheduled (dependent on funding)
When will I know if the project will affect my home, business or land?
Throughout the environmental review process, MnDOT will consider the project’s impact on residences, businesses, and private property. These impacts will be addressed for all the alternatives and in greater detail when a Preferred Alternative is identified. Through the ongoing public involvement process, property owners will be updated on the project status and any potential plans for acquisition of property. All right of way acquisition and relocation must be done in accordance with procedures set by federal and state law. MnDOT right-of-way and relocation advisors will help develop individual relocation plans and construction becomes more imminent.