Monticello council members have approved sending another letter of support to the Minnesota Department of Transportation regarding Interstate 94 expansion.
City leaders pledged their continued support of the I-94 West Corridor Coalition by unanimously approving a consent agenda item on their Oct. 14 agenda.
In a background memo, Community Development Director Angela Schumann explained the letter of support, which asked MnDOT to include the expansion in its Corridors of Commerce program.
Schumann stated in her memo that efforts to generate support for the expansion under this piece of legislation are being spearheaded by the I-94 West Corridor Coalition.
The city of Monticello is a current member of the coalition. According to Schumann, Industrial & Economic Development Committee member Wayne Elam provided an update on the Coalition’s efforts to generate awareness and support for the expansion of I-94 to six lanes at the IEDC’s October meeting.
Elam indicated that based on the discussions at recent I-94 Corridor Coalition events, there seems to be support from Gov. Mark Dayton’s office, MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle and local legislators on funding the six-lane I-94 west expansion project. Elam indicated future legislative support exists for funding the first phase of the work from Highway 101 in Rogers to Highway 241 in St. Michael.
Schumann stated in her memo that Monticello city staff concurred with that assessment. “Continued support for the phased expansion of the I-94 corridor is an important economic development consideration for the city,” Schumann wrote.
Additionally, Schumann stated I-94 Coalition Chairman Steve Bot also requested the city send a letter of support.
In the Oct 14 draft letter of support to Zelle, Mayor Clint Herbst stated the following: “Monticello is dedicated to ensuring that capacity expansion occurs along Interstate 94, west of the Twin Cities. Our residents and businesses have suffered physical, emotional, and financial losses due to the congestion and safety issues caused by the current lack of capacity on I-94.”
Herbst reminded Zelle that MnDOT had previously conducted extensive studies and produced several plans, including the I-94 Interregional Corridor Plan (2002), the Central Minnesota Regional Freight Study (2011), and the 2028 Statewide Highway Investment Plan (2009), all of which had identified performance-based expansion needs for the I-94 West Corridor.
Herbst added: “Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) identified the I-94 West Corridor as ‘highly congested’ from the Twin Cities to St. Cloud, with high freight congestion levels forecasted to extend to North Dakota by the year 2040. Interstate 94 from Highway 101 near Rogers to Highway 23 in St. Cloud has been recognized as the most congested span of interstate in all of Minnesota.”
While representing only 1.6 percent of MnDOT’s interregional corridor system, this stretch makes up 40 percent of the system’s congestion. From the Fish Lake Interchange to Trunk Highway 241, crash rate and severity are double that of the state average. Herbst stated.
Interstate congestion will worsen as Central Minnesota experiences state-leading population growth and North Dakota continues its energy boom, Herbst added.
“The only way to improve commerce, safety issues, and traffic delays on I-94 is through capacity expansion,” Herbst wrote. “The citizens and businesses that rely on I-94 for travel and commerce are desperate for a solution. Please use a portion of the available funding designated through the Corridors of Commerce program to begin to rectify the capacity and safety issues along the I-94 West Corridor.”
Council members approved the letter of support without discussion.
Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]