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The state Transportation Department’s 20-year plan includes improvements to several area highways, but doesn’t mention converting the two-lane stretches of Highway 23 on either side of Paynesville to four lanes. Tribune photo by Jan Queenan

20-year plan: State issues highway investment priorities

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation this week wrapped up a 20-year state highway investment plan that establishes priorities for the next two decades.

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The plan calls for investing over the next 10 years in safety-related road improvements, new connections for multimodal transportation and other projects that foster economic development, along with shoring up the existing infrastructure.

The second 10 years of the plan focus almost exclusively on preserving and maintaining existing roads and bridges.

State transportation officials note a significant gap between revenue and funding needs. The plan identifies $30 billion worth of transportation needs over the next 20 years but officials anticipate $18 billion in revenue, leaving many projects unfunded.

Among the regional projects that made the priority list for the first 10 years are improvements to Highway 7 east of Montevideo; U.S. Highway 212 east and west of Granite Falls; several portions of U.S. Highway 12, including stretches from Litchfield to Willmar to Pennock; Highway 24 north of Litchfield; and U.S. 71 north of Willmar.

Omitted from the plan is the closure of gaps in the four-lane stretch of Highway 23 on either side of Paynesville.

Even with a focus on preserving the existing infrastructure, the number of roads and bridges in poor condition is expected to double within the next 20 years, state transportation officials said.

The priorities in the 20-year plan “illustrate the increasing constraints on highway planning in Minnesota,” said state Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “Growth in construction costs continues to outpace growth in revenue and as the highway system ages, needs are increasing. In particular, investments in the second 10 years do not address many system needs.”

The 20-year plan was developed through a months-long process that included meetings with the public and a steering committee of city and county stakeholders.

The full plan can be found online at mndot.gov/planning/mnship.

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