Bachmann, area coalition seek expansion of I-94

9:20 PM, Jul 30, 2013   |    comments
I-94 near Albertville
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ST PAUL - Nobody will deny that Interstate 94 will eventually be three lanes in each direction all the way from the Twin Cities to Saint Cloud.

But that $300 million project is not on MnDOT's 20-year blue print, known as the Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan, or MNSHIP.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann led a delegation of I-94 boosters that met privately at the State Capitol Tuesday with Governor Dayton, to talk about the need to widen Interstate.

"This is a bipartisan issue that people agree, we need to add another lane on either side of 94," Bachmann told reporters.

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake said that based on traffic load, and economic activity, adding lanes in that northwest metro corridor should become more of a funding priority.

"Right now what's happening is I-94 is so congested, so heavily stopped up, that even our National Guard is taking side roads to get through," Sen. Kiffmeyer said, referring to routes guard units take to maneuvers at Camp Ripley.

Members of the I-94 Coalition note that the corridor from Maple Grove to St. Cloud is one of the fastest growing areas in the state. Congestion is a regular occurrence, especially on weekends when Twin Cities residents use the freeway to journey to lakes and cabins.

As a first phase backers of the expansion would like to see $30 million invested in widening I-94 from Rogers to St. Michael, in hopes that it would relieve one of the largest choke points.

"We know this is a statewide issue, but It has to be on the list," St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis remarked.

"It has to be on the list because you can't actually fund a project until you put it as a priority, and we're here to make sure that 94's a priority."

Governor Dayton lent a sympathetic ear, and invited supporters of the project to keep talking to MnDOT and Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle.

But Dayton said adding new lanes on I-94 will have to take a back seat to a long list of repair projects on existing highways.

"We're $12 billion short in the next 20 years under current revenue sources, just to maintain what we have now, just to keep where we are - the status quo - without it getting worse," the governor said after the meeting.

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