The $36 million interchange would serve the 2,325-acre Elk Run development, which is slated to include a Biobusiness Park, commercial space and residential homes. To get the interchange built, Elk Run developers donated an estimated $13 million in right-of-way for the project.
Pawlenty said in the past, Minnesota has been hesitant to ask private businesses to help pay for infrastructure that would benefit them. But the Republican governor said that needs to change.“Now we’re much more aggressively and proactive ly looking for areas of improvement that would benefit existing or future commercial or private interest and then asking those interests to join us,” Pawlenty said.
But some question whether Pawlenty’s proposal will hurt efforts to get road upgrades in rural areas with limited economic development. J.D. Burton, a spokesman with the U.S. Hwy 14 Partnership, said his organization is frustrated that residents have been waiting decades for the roadway to be upgraded from a two- to four-lane road from North Mankato to Dodge Center. Over the next 20 years, the state transportation department still does not have the funding needed to finish the project. The stretch from Dodge Center to Owatonna is slated to cost $151 million.“If the governor is suggesting now we need to have a multi-billion company to support us and that is the only way we are going to get our projects done, then I think that is unwise for the future of transportation in our state,” Burton said.