IF YOU EVER HAVE traveled U.S. Highway 14 west of North Mankato, you will understand why I am thrilled that something is finally being done to improve a small stretch—the 10 miles between North Mankato and Nicollet—of this deadly roadway.
Based on my more than 30 years of traveling Highway 14, I can unequivocally tell you that this rural roadway rates as dangerous. Think narrow lanes, heavy traffic, speeding, few opportunities to pass safely and too many drivers passing when they shouldn’t be.
The U.S. Highway 14 corridor between New Ulm and North Mankato in Nicollet County recorded 250 crashes from 2006 to 2010. This overall crash rate is consistent with comparable rural state highways. However, 11 of those crashes had either a fatality or a serious injury, leaving this portion of Hwy 14 with a fatal and serious injury crash rate 50 percent greater than comparable rural state highways. Safety in the area from North Mankato to Nicollet and at the intersection of Hwy 14 and Hwy 15 north of New Ulm is of particular concern.
Did you catch that statistic? A fatal and serious injury crash rate 50 percent greater than comparable rural state highways. Impressive and scary, huh?
In recent years, when traveling to southwestern Minnesota to visit family, my husband and I often have taken the “back way” to Nicollet from Faribault, passing through towns like Le Center, Cleveland and St. Peter, to avoid that horrible 10-mile stretch of Highway 14 from North Mankato. We’ve checked mileage and travel time and found both routes to be nearly identical.
But many times we still take Highway 14 between North Mankato and Nicollet. Now it’s a bit safer with a buffer, traffic sticks (to prevent passing) and rumble strips recently added between lanes. Those changes marked the first stage of efforts to make this area of roadway safer.
Sometime in 2017 or 2018, construction is expected to begin on a project which will extend the four-lane all the way from North Mankato to Nicollet. Finally.
That still leaves about 15 miles of dangerous Highway 14 travel between Nicollet and New Ulm.
Ten miles are a start in saving lives along this notorious rural roadway. But I, personally, will not be satisfied until the entire 25-mile stretch between North Mankato and New Ulm becomes a four-lane.
IF YOU’VE EVER driven Highway 14 between North Mankato and New Ulm, I’d like to hear your stories and thoughts about travel there.
To see the entire listing of 2013 MnDOT road construction projects slated for Greater Minnesota, click here.
© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling