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Minnesota House approves funding for Highway 10 lane expansion in Wadena

The project has been talked about for at least 40 years.

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Highway 10 west out of Wadena has always been a two-lane highway. A four-lane proposal could finally receive funding. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Wadena may find out this week if the last stretch of two-lane Highway 10 will soon be expanded to four lanes.

The Minnesota House of Representatives approved the Omnibus Transportation Finance and Policy bill Wednesday, June 23, on a vote of 112-21. The bill included $30 million in funding for a lane expansion on U.S. Highway 10 to the east and west of Wadena.

The four-lane expansion project is one that numerous law makers and officials in the region have been working towards for over 40 years, according to Rep. John Poston, R-Lake Shore. He said Thursday that the strong bi-partisan support behind this bill this week, plus the strong financial standing of the state gave him confidence that this time -- it’s really going to happen.

“Today is a great day for folks in our area that depend on Highway 10 to get to work, deliver goods and services, or are passing through our community on their way to the cabin,” Poston said. “This is a project that I have been working hard to secure funding for and I am grateful that we were able to get the job done. I look forward to construction starting sometime soon.”

Wadena County Commissioners Bill Stearns and Sheldon Monson have been diligently pushing the project forward for the last five years. Also helping the project was Sen. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka R-Nisswa, who has been promoting this project for 12 years.

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“I give a lot of credit to commissioners, they’ve been the squeaky wheel working very hard to get this done,” Poston said.

Monson, the commission chairman, said Thursday he was happy to see this project move ahead as he saw it as a major safety improvement for the region.

“When people out of the area are coming in, they are used to the four lane, they are not paying attention and I do recall at least one or more accidents where there were head on collisions,” Monson said. “The biggest reason is the safety issue. It’s the only part of Highway 10 in the state that has this two-lane to four-lane configuration.”

Poston agreed, saying it was a corridor of commerce, an important route for agriculture and a stretch of road commonly used by tourists. He added that this was the first budget bill of the session to achieve largely bipartisan support. He stressed that it was important to pass this along quickly as the last time the State of Minnesota was unable to pass their budget in a timely manner, transportation costs added up to about $30 million.

Poston felt good about the bill as they were able to “throw out” tax increases such as gas tax, registration tax, vehicle sales tax and metro transit tax.

“All of those were thrown overboard at the last minute so we could get this thing done,” Poston said.

The $30 million fund should cover all the cost of the construction as that was the latest estimated cost, according to Poston. This includes 6-7 miles of two-lane road on either side of Wadena, between Bluffton to the west and Verndale to the east. A large bite of the cost has already been taken care of when the road within Wadena was reconstructed between 2018-2020 by MnDOT.

That reconstructed portion included a widening of the road, which allowed for turn lanes and medians. That improvement was noticeable to Poston on a recent trip to Wadena.

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“For the first time in really a long time I got up to the main intersection and I didn’t have a semi turning where I had to back up. So it is flowing better. This will make it just that much better,” Poston said.

Poston believes the bill will be picked up by the Senate today and possibly onto the Governor’s desk by Friday.

Speaking to the special session, Poston said things are finally moving along despite a May 17 budget deadline. They were taking up the eviction moratorium on Thursday and finding a way to “move away from that,” a contentious topic.

Poston also brought up the agriculture bill and the requirement for Minnesota fuel stations to sell gas with 15% ethanol by volume — or E15 gasoline — by 2022.

Smaller fuel stations in need of support to pay for these upgrades would get assistance through funds including from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Poston said.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at mjohnson@agweek.com or 218-640-2312.
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