Interstate 94 improvement supported by EDA

The Monticello Economic Development Authority wants the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to find funding for an expanded Interstate 94.
Commissioners passed  resolution to that effect Nov. 14 after listening to a request and background presentation from City Engineer Bruce Westby.
MnDOT is currently updating its 20-year State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP). MnDOT will use this plan as a guide for funding approximately $18 billion in capital improvements on the 12,000-mile state highway system during the next 20 years. Communities such as Monticello are watching MnDOT’s plan closely.
MnDOT is exploring three concepts for funding major highway improvements, Westby said.
Those concepts have been identified as Approaches A, B and C.
Approach A would direct the majority of funding to preserving existing infrastructure and nothing would be allocated to improving interregional corridors, which includes Interstate 94 between Maple Grove and Saint Cloud. Approach B would still direct most funding to preserving existing infrastructure but still nothing would be spent on improving interregional corridors like I-94. Approach C would still direct a significant amount of funding to infrastructure preservation but would allow for some improvements to interregional corridors like I-94. MnSHIP is updated every four years, as required by the legislature.
The last plan was completed in 2009. According to Westby, since the last plan update, MnDOT has adopted a risk management approach to decision-making.
“They [MnDOT] are not going to the individual MnDOT districts and looking at individual projects,” he said. “They are focusing on which roads need to be maintained. It’s more of a pavement preservation approach.” From a local and regional perspective, if Approach A is selected, business leaders and government officials are concerned the impact would be significant, primarily because the segment of I-94 from Maple Grove to St. Cloud includes only 1.6 percent of the state’s interregional corridor (IRC) mileage but 40 percent of the total roadway congestion that’s anticipated to occur during the next 20 years.
“Without expansion, there will be gridlock at the end of the 20-year period,” Westby said. “We’d like the EDA to support Approach C, which will fund some expansion while allowing most of [MnDOT’s] money to go to pavement preservation projects.” Approach A would not include funding for a third lane on I-94.
The Monticello Chamber of Commerce & Industry showed its support of Approach C with this statement: “This corridor of I-94 also serves many beyond our region, functioning as a national artery for the trucking industry in the U.S. with thousands of trucking companies utilizing this corridor. Our hospitality industry also depends on the I-94 corridor as the premier gateway for thousands of Minnesotans traveling up north for vacation and recreation opportunities.”
Monticello’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) will receive an update on the MnSHIP plans Thursday (Nov. 29) at 7:30 a.m.
The committee helps define transportation needs and goals, lobbies for transportation projects and studies and supports public education and funding sources development and transportation investment.
This Thursday’s TAC meeting is scheduled to take place in the Monticello Community Center’s Academy Room. A Fallon Avenue overpass update, second Mississippi River crossing update and West 7th Street Extension (Minnesota to Elm) Feasibility Report update were other items listed on the Nov. 29 agenda.