Highway 14 from New Ulm to Nicollet reopens to traffic today, making it a continuous four-lane highway all the way to Rochester, a project decades in the making.
The 12.5-mile stretch of roadway has been closed since April 2022, with traffic detoured to Highway 68 and local roads.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, which was attended by Governor Tim Walz and Senator Amy Klobuchar, along with local and state lawmakers and community leaders.
“To say this is a day we’ve been waiting for is an understatement,” said Walz. The governor gave credit to the local mayors for their years of dedicated efforts. He called the highway “very personal,” and spoke about his neighbor, Charlie Ingman, who was killed in a crash on the old Highway 14 near Waseca in 1996. Walz was coaching Ingman’s son Ben in basketball when two state troopers walked in to inform Ben of his father’s death.
“The old Highway 14 put drivers in harm’s way every single day,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. She touted the bipartisan efforts by state and federal lawmakers to get the project funded.
Lt Governor Peggy Flanagan called the expanded highway important to the economic vitality and opportunity of the region.
Congressman Brad Finstad said old Highway 14 taught him a lot about his faith when he knew his family was traveling on the road. He said the expansion and reopening is a celebration in honor of those who lost their lives on the old two-lane.
“We’re going to save a lot of lives by cutting this ribbon today,” said Senator Nick Frentz. “It may not be your next door neighbor, but it will be someone’s next door neighbor that doesn’t get a call at 12 in the morning.” He called the project a victory for all of Minnesota.
Rep Jeff Brand said a Courtland firefighter told him at an open house featuring preliminary drawings of the highway plan that he was ‘tired of pulling dead people from cars,’ . “Those words I continue to carry with me in my heart to this day,” said Brand.
Rep Paul Torkelson drew laughs and cheers as he reminded the crowd that Highway 14 doesn’t end in New Ulm.
Courtland Mayor Al Poehler was enthusiastic about the economic development the safer roadway could bring to the city.
Lawmakers and advocates wrapped up the ceremony with an official ribbon cutting.
Besides converting the existing road from two lanes to four, the project included adding interchanges at Brown Co Rd 37 at New Ulm and Nicollet Co Rd 12/24 at Courtland.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation says the highway will open by 5 p.m.Tuesday evening.