MnDOT and Steele, Waseca counties do not have agreement on old Trunk Highway 14
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced today that it will not sign the version of a settlement agreement approved by Steele and Waseca counties last week regarding the turnback of old Highway 14.
“The document sent back to us by both county boards was not the document to which we agreed,” MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle said. “It contained language that we had not approved, and MnDOT was not given the chance to review that document before it went to the county boards.”
The dispute between MnDOT and the counties relates to the completion of the new alignment of Highway 14. Under state law, the old alignment must be turned over to the counties. A state fund, shared among all 87 counties, exists to help pay the cost of restoration of such highways. MnDOT and Steele and Waseca counties could not agree on the amount of money the counties were demanding from that fund. The counties then elected to sue the state over the issue.
During the past several weeks, the parties have been negotiating to reach an agreement that would end the litigation and allow work on the highway to proceed. Under the proposed settlement, MnDOT would not provide funding to the counties. Instead, MnDOT would reacquire control of the roadway, perform agreed-on work to preserve the roadway for the counties, and then turn the roadway back over to the counties.
“This has been a long and drawn out process,” Zelle said. “We are very close to reaching an agreement and hoped to have done so by now. We have worked hard to satisfy the county demands while also ensuring the interests of the state are protected. Certainly, avoiding a year of court hearings is in the best interest of all taxpayers.”
MnDOT’s lawyer sent the attached letter to the lawyers representing Steele and Waseca counties. If the counties and MnDOT are not able to reach a settlement agreement, court hearings in the litigation will resume in early January 2014.