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Funding is key to next U.S. 52 work

Funding is key to next U.S. 52 work

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For more information about the Highway 52 Freeway Partnership, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/movingminnesota/52corridorplan.html.

By Dawn Schuett

schuett@postbulletin.com

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ZUMBROTA -- Until U.S. 52 finally becomes a four-lane freeway with interchanges and over graphic p Learn more

For more information about the Highway 52 Freeway Partnership, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/movingminnesota/52corridorplan.html.

By Dawn Schuett

schuett@postbulletin.com

ZUMBROTA -- Until U.S. 52 finally becomes a four-lane freeway with interchanges and overpasses replacing its at-grade crossings and intersections, Gary Stiller knows caution will help him survive the wait.

Stiller, who farms north of Zumbrota, crosses the highway with machinery and, so far, has avoided the dangers posed by oncoming traffic. His son-in-law died in an accident last year on the highway.

Although it'll likely be years before improvements are made to the portion of U.S. 52 that Stiller travels most frequently, he said he's hopeful it'll eventually happen and will turn out as well as the project in Rochester.

"The progress in Olmsted County and Rochester shows it can be done," Stiller said. For now, "we're just sitting on the balance beam, waiting."

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Stiller was among 75 people attending a meeting Tuesday of the Highway 52 Freeway Partnership. The group consists of township, city and county officials from Olmsted, Goodhue and Dakota counties working with Minnesota Department of Transportation officials on the plan to transform the 80-mile U.S. 52 corridor between Rochester and the Twin Cities into a freeway.

During the meeting at Zumbrota City Hall, MnDOT representatives and county engineers from three counties gave updates of the effort.

Five improvement projects of the long-range plan -- three in Dakota County and two in Olmsted County -- are complete. Construction of two other projects, the improvements in the Oronoco area and a new overpass in Dakota County, are planned for this year. Funding is an issue in the remaining projects.

"We've got a long way to go, but it does make you optimistic to see how much has been accomplished," said Mike Sheehan, Olmsted County engineer.

U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican from Lakeville, Minn., whose district includes all of Goodhue County and most of Dakota, talked about the challenge of earmarking federal funds in the future for highway projects.

He previously helped to secure $1.6 million for the planned interchange at U.S. 52 and Goodhue County Road 24 in Cannon Falls and $3.25 million to reconstruct the interchange at U.S. 52 and Dakota County Road 42 in Dakota County.

"All I can do is say we'll take the priorities and work on them," Kline said.

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