Finally, it’s official. The expansion to four lanes of Highway 14 from Owatonna to Dodge Center was included in the bonding bill that now has Governor Mark Dayton’s signature.

Republican Senator John Jasinski of Faribault said it’s been a long time coming. “The first environmental impact statement was done in 1993; that’s 25 years ago this project started,” he explained. “And it’s been talked about for many more. I’ve heard 50 years and up.”

The $160 million is coming through the Corridors of Commerce program, which was handed an additional $400 million in the bonding bill.

Owatonna City Councilman Kevin Raney is a member of the Highway 14 Partnership, and he says that portion of the highway is a dangerous, “Inefficient stretch. It has been one of the things holding us back. Highway 14 has been the source of a great deal of heartbreak. We’ve lost friends and neighbors in horrible accidents and we’ve come close to getting it funded before only to be disappointed. This is a great day.

Republican Representative John Petersburg of Waseca added that there will be many benefits to the expansion of the highway. “It’s safety, it’s all about infrastructure, but it’s also about economy. It’s also about Destination Medical Center and all of the things Highway 14 is dependent upon and all of the things that depend on it.”

Destination Medical Center is a 20-year public/private partnership meant to position Rochester and the Mayo Clinic as the world’s premier destination for health and wellness.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced two other additional Corridors of Commerce projects that will be undertaken with the additional bonding dollars for the program. MnDOT announced $105 million will be spent to expand Highway 23 to a continuous four-lane road between St. Cloud and Willmar. In the Metro, $163 million will convert Highway 252 into a freeway and install a MnPASS lane.

The three additional projects join a list of four planned improvements announced by the department earlier this month. That list was widely criticized for being too Metro focused.