News Flash

Wright County News

Posted on: January 23, 2020

Potter Hopeful of Obtaining Federal Transportation Dollars for I-94 Completion

When it comes to highway construction that will be ongoing in Wright County over the next year to 18 months, drivers will be experiencing a “good news, bad news” scenario, especially in the northeastern portion of the county. In the long term, things will be good. In the short term, things will be bad.

Wright County Commissioner Mike Potter has played a significant role in working with legislators and lobbyists through the I-94 Coalition to get Wright County prioritized on the list of highway project candidates seeking to obtain funding from state and federal grant programs. He said that the coalition has enjoyed some success in getting improvements for Interstate 94 and hopes that a proposed new federal funding source may be the solution for a final segment of the freeway the county would like to see expanded.

Although 2020 is going to be a very active construction season, highlighted by the start of a pair of construction projects on I-94 – adding a traffic lane in both directions from Monticello to Clearwater and improvements between St. Michael and Albertville – Potter said the I-94 Coalition is inquiring about funding from a potential new federal grant program called ROUTES (Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success).

Potter said the goal for Wright County and the I-94 Coalition has been to get funding from another federal grant program called BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development). BUILD is in its third year of existence and appropriated $1.8 billion in grants in its first two years with $1 billion set aside for 2020. The plan is to seek ROUTES funding, which is currently in the final stages of its pre-approval comment period (which ends Jan. 27).

“We’re hoping that we will be able get a grant though this program to supplement what we already have,” Potter said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get that approved and get that last section between Albertville and Monticello funded and constructed.”

Potter added that getting I-94 improved and expanded has been a long-term goal and the ROUTES and BUILD programs could both be utilized to try to secure funding for the Albertville-to-Monticello segment since the grant applications are submitted at different times of the year.

While Wright County has yet to have success in getting grants from the BUILD program, he remains optimistic that the final funding piece for I-94 will come through one of the programs, at which time the county can turn its focus to other highways in need of upgrading or expansion.

“If we get one of those grants, at that point, all of 34 miles of I-94 that run through the county will have been upgraded,” Potter said. “Then we can start working on some of our other roads. Highway 25 needs to be four-lane from Monticello to Buffalo. At some point in time, it’s got to get on the radar and it’s got to get going. We also need to get improvements on Highway 55. They’re not all in Wright County, but for people who drive that road every day to work, they know that improvements are needed there, too. We’ll just keep moving forward on those and hopefully get them on the radar for projects that need to get done.”

With a flurry of construction activity running simultaneously, Potter said drivers will have their share of headaches getting from Point A to Point B in their daily drives and work commutes, but, when the construction is completed, the roads will be better and safer – making the short-term delays and headaches worth the long-term benefits.

“The next year or so is going to be a tough time to drive in the northeast part of the county,” Potter said. “We have St. Michael to Albertville and Monticello to Clearwater on I-94 both starting this year. We’ve got the Hwy. 39/42 project (in Otsego) getting done. The Hwy 19 project to 70th Street (in Albertville) is coming and we have a handful of smaller miscellaneous projects that are going to be mixed in. When they’re all done, we’re going to have a vastly improved road system. But, getting there will be the problem in the short-term for those who drive those roads every day. A lot of people will probably be a little angry while they’re living through it, but the end result will make it worthwhile.”

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