Klobuchar says future is in exports
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Transportation is the economic life-blood of our rural communities, and a larger artery, in the form of a four-lane Highway 23 running 200 miles from St. Cloud to I-90 near Sioux Falls, would do well to increase the flow.
That was the message that was pitched to U.S Senator Amy Klobuchar by David Sturrock, of the Trunk Highway 23 Corridor Group, and an assortment of area business and political representatives at Granite Falls City Hall on Monday afternoon.
“There has been momentum for this project,” said Sturrock. “The challenge for our region is to create more momentum so we can move forward faster.”
By all accounts, Sturrock and the collection of representatives––who included local State Senator Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, House Representative, Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, House Representative Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes and Schwans Government Relations Director, Alan Poff––appeared to be preaching to the choir.
“I really think this is something we need in this area,” said Klobuchar. “I think we have a good case for four-lanes ... This is a priority for me.”
Sturrock noted that the Highway 23 corridor is one of the few Tier-1 Freight Routes in Minnesota without four-lanes or adequate bypass lanes––an obvious gap in the state’s four-lane infrastructure. Driving the issue are needs of inter-state commerce as well as the safety provided by a larger highway.
To date, it was estimated that roughly 25 to 30 percent of the 200 mile stretch is already running at four lanes. In addition, Sturrock noted that there are several projects in the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) future construction plans, which will add additional bypass lanes along the corridor. “Inch by inch,” he said such projects are preparing the Highway to realize the four lane vision.
“We’re just anxious to show we have the table set so if somebody sits down we can eat,” stated Smiglewski.
Klobuchar pointed out the state has been able to receive a healthy dose of federal road project funding, $700 million each of the past four years, and that the recent extension of the federal Highway Bill––while just “a bridge” to a more comprehensive bill––would help further such state transportation priorities.
She said there were a few creative initiatives in the works to help gain additional footing. One involved legislative action known as “repatriation” that would bring corporate profits back to United States from overseas, while another, called an Infrastructure Bank, would serve as a mechanism to encourage public/private joint projects.
“The whole area in western and southern Minnesota is just booming and it needs infrastructure,” Klobuchar said. “The future is in exports in this region.”