Will this project affect access to US 14?
Yes. The expanded US 14 will not provide private access to the highway. Instead, less direct access will be provided by a system of frontage roads, interchanges, and intersections. The Draft EIS discusses how each alternative would provide access to the expanded highway. At this time, drivers access US 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.
Mn/DOT is studying the potential for interchanges at locations that have experienced safety problems (see the map). Interchanges provide the safest means for traffic to enter and exit highways. Safety is generally improved because turning and crossing movements are removed, and because drivers access the highway from interchange ramps.
How will this project impact farmlands along US 14?
At the Informal Open Houses held in July 2004, several people asked how this highway project will impact their farms—including access to fields and tile lines.
This project will result in farmland acquisition and field severances. Farmers may also have to travel farther to get to their fields because there will be no private access to US 14. The Draft EIS includes a review of how each alternative would impact farmland.
Will the US 14 Minnesota River bridge in New Ulm be considered?
Based in part on input received from the public and from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Mn/DOT plans to expand the EIS to also evaluate the US 14 bridge in New Ulm. This study will now examine the potential environmental impacts of expanding the existing US 14 bridge from two lanes to four lanes.
When will Mn/DOT purchase Right-of-Way and build the project?
Right-of-Way acquisition for this project is several years away. Mn/DOT must still complete the Final EIS (scheduled for 2009) and design the preferred highway alternative.
A timeframe for construction cannot be estimated because no funding has been identified for the project. Generally, construction is not expected to begin until about 2015 to 2020. However, identifying a preferred alternative in the Final EIS will enable communities - especially Nicollet, Courtland and New Ulm - as well as property owners along the highway, to plan for their future and help preserve the right-of-way needed for construction.
When will construction begin?
While funding has not been identified for future improvements to the corridor, the identification of a preferred alternative will enable communities along U.S. Highway 14, especially Courtland and Nicollet, to plan for their future and help preserve the best possible corridor for an improved highway.
Highway 14 is a medium priority interregional corridor. It is a critical transportation corridor connecting points in southern and western Minnesota to Rochester, and this segment connects two secondary regional trade centers - Mankato/North Mankato and New Ulm; therefore, present and future mobility, safety and access issues are addressed in an interregional corridor management plan.
The scoping process for this corridor indicated that the future design for Highway 14 should be four lanes.
What is the purpose of this Highway 14 study?
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) has identified U.S. Highway 14 as a priority corridor for the state. Highway 14 is a major east-west corridor for southern Minnesota, connecting New Ulm, Courtland, Nicollet, and North Mankato to one another and to regional centers in Mankato, Owatonna, Rochester, and Winona. Performing the study now will allow us to continue the momentum created by public involvement on previous studies for this corridor.
In May 2003, Mn/DOT completed a "Scoping Decision Document" for the US Highway 14 West (New Ulm to North Mankato) Interregional Corridor. Findings from that study included:
- Improvements to the US Highway 14 Corridor between New Ulm and North Mankato are needed to address issues related to safety, traffic congestion, increases in truck traffic and highway access.
- Several options exist for improving the highway corridor. Input received from citizens along the corridor was used to help identify the reasonable four-lane alternatives for future consideration.
- With a reduced list of reasonable alternatives, Mn/DOT should conduct an Environment Impact Statement study to identify the preferred alternative.
What is an Environmental Impact Statement?
An Environmental Impact Statement (or EIS) is a document that reviews the potential impacts of various highway improvement alternatives. After receiving input from the public and various agencies, Mn/DOT decides which alternative best balances potential costs and benefits and then recommends it as the "Preferred Alternative" for future construction.
How did Mn/DOT select alternatives to study?
Mn/DOT began working with agencies and the public to develop a broad range of alternatives over two years ago during development of the US 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 Mn/DOT’s performance goals and design guidelines. At the beginning of this current study, Mn/DOT developed several conceptual four-lane highway alternatives and interchanges based on the alternatives recommended for additional analysis in the Scoping Document. These 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. During the summer of 2004, a reasonable few corridors and interchange designs were identified for detailed environmental impact studies. As shown on the map above, this includes expanding most of the existing highway to four lanes. However, expanding US 14 through the cities of Courtland and Nicollet is not recommended because preliminary analysis showed that expanding through these cities would result in extreme impacts to homes and businesses with little transportation benefit.
Will US 14 go around the cities of New Ulm, Courtland, and Nicollet?
The Draft EIS includes options for bypassing Courtland and Nicollet. Both cities have stated support for bypasses around their communities—Courtland prefers a northern bypass and Nicollet a southern bypass. Mn/DOT is not studying a bypass around New Ulm on the south side of the Minnesota River, primarily because past studies have shown that a bypass is not consistent with travel patterns in the area.