In the 2013 Legislative Session, Flaherty & Hood lobbyist Amanda Duerr led the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership in successfully lobbying for the creation of the Corridors of Commerce program—which resulted in three Highway 14 expansion projects being funded:
- North Mankato to Nicollet expansion
- Nicollet bypass and interchange
- Owatonna to Dodge Center “Phase I” expansion (U.S. 218 to 54th Ave)
After demonstrating that Highway 14 is a vital corridor to support southern Minnesota’s growing economy and a strong contender for program funding, the Partnership made securing additional Corridors of Commerce funding a top priority for the 2014 Session. The Partnership was a member of Move MN, a coalition of 200+ organizations advocating for a statewide transportation funding increase. Partnership members provided compelling testimony on how an incomplete Highway 14 hampers the region’s strong manufacturing and agribusiness sectors, as well as causing a barrier to economic development.
After it became clear that the Governor and House leadership were not interested in raising transportation revenues in an election year, the Partnership pushed for Corridors of Commerce funding in the supplemental budget. The Partnership held a lobby day at the State Capitol to demonstrate to Highway 14 legislators how important Corridors of Commerce funding is to their constituencies. Members also sent in thousands of “Hwy 14 in ‘14” postcards and repeatedly contacted key players in the budget negotiations.
In the end, $31.5 million in Corridors of Commerce program funding was appropriated: $6.5 million earmarked for Greater Minnesota in fiscal year 2014 and $25 million in statewide program funding in fiscal year 2015. Though not as much funding as was provided in 2013, securing a Trunk Highway Fund appropriation for Corridors of Commerce establishes the program as an ongoing budget priority. This will be important when the Legislature considers a comprehensive transportation investment, which the Governor and House Speaker say will occur in 2015 if they are re-elected.
Additionally, a cash appropriation has the flexibility to be used for right-of-way and project development—work that is needed on the remaining two-lane sections of Highway 14. MnDOT has stated that it intends to use the new Corridors of Commerce funding to get projects shovel-ready, but have not yet announced its selections.