Anyone who drives on I-94 through Wright County knows how congested traffic can be during peak rush hour periods.
At the March 12 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, the board was asked to help in the fight to get state and federal dollars prioritized toward expanding the freeway by one lane in both directions between Rogers and Monticello.
St. Michael City Engineer Steve Bot came before the board requesting a contribution to assist in the efforts of the I-94 West Corridor Coalition.
Citing the contribution the county has made to the efforts on the Hwy. 55 corridor, he highlighted that I-94 is vital to Wright County for several reasons, not the least of which being the economic impact.
“I-94 is a corridor of commerce,” Bot said. “We’re at a critical point moving forward because the state is currently working on the MnSHIP program, which is a 20-year highway plan that will set the priorities for road construction. Under the current plan, MnDOT has only maintenance projects for I-94 in its 20-year plan and we need to get into the discussion while those decisions are still being made.”
Bot pointed out the need by using the state’s own traffic figures to make his point. I-94 between Hwy. 241 in St. Michael and Hwy. 23 in St. Cloud accounts for just 1.6 percent of the length on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Interregional Corridor System, yet accounts from 40 percent of the traffic congestion. He added that there has been bipartisan support for expansion of I-94 from Rogers to Monticello from U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, as well of Representative Michele Bachmann urging MnDOT to prioritize the corridor.
Wright County has contributed approximately $10,000 to the Highway 55 corridor coalition and the results have been successful, but essentially completed until any expansion of the road is approved, which could be several years away.
Commissioner Mike Potter, who petitioned the item to the board agenda, said the I-94 corridor is even more important to Wright County.
“Not only is the I-94 west corridor the largest carrier of commuter traffic, it is the main connector between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud,” Potter said.
“If we want to have future economic development, the time to get started on that is now.,” he added.
The board unanimously approved donating $8,000 to the I-94 West Corridor Coalition effort and hope that the timing of the increased interest in the road will result in money being earmarked for adding a lane in both directions in the near future.
In other items on the March 12 Wright County Board agenda, commissioners:
• Authorized the county’s project team to review options of live-streaming county board meetings on the internet and to make a recommendation to the county board in terms of cost and effectiveness of the two vendors being considered.
Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.