County portion of I-94 gets $56 million for lane expansion

By John Holler Correspondent

There are times when news breaks that is important enough to get mentioned at a county board meeting without being on the board agenda. When that news breaks during the meeting, thanks to advancements in technology, it can be reported immediately.

Such was the case at the May 1 meeting of the Wright County of Commissioners, as Commissioner Mike Potter broke the news that the State Legislature approved a $56 million expansion of I-94 from St. Michael to Albertville between Hwy. 241 and Co. Rd. 19 for the 2020 construction season.

“We were hopeful that the project would get approved during this funding cycle, but you never know,” Potter said. “As it turns out, only four projects in the entire state were approved – two projects deemed as metro projects and two viewed as Greater Minnesota. Our project was seen as an outstate project.”

There will likely be concerns from other communities in outstate Minnesota because the two projects that were deemed to be outside the Twin Cities metro area were the $56 million project in Wright County and a $150 million project on 169 near Elk River. Potter said that announcement will likely draw the ire of projects along Hwy. 23 in Central Minnesota and a larger proposed project near Mankato that didn’t garner enough points on the state’s new point system for ranking projects.

Securing funding for I-94 expansion hasn’t been easy and has been going on for the last 20 years. Potter said the cost of doing a single project that would require hundreds of millions of dollars to complete simply isn’t feasible in the state’s road funding cycle. He said more than 100 applications for funding were submitted and only four were chosen for the 2020 construction season.

Potter explained that getting segments done has become the new goal for expanding I-94 from two to three lanes. The St. Michael-Albertville project is just one step in completing a bigger goal that will take time to accomplish.

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