Hwy 14 median closure happening next week, businesses react

Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 6:32 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Expect slowdowns next week, as parts of Highway 14 in Rochester will close. The closure was a call made by the Minnesota Department of Transportation last month, after the legislature failed to pass a bonding bill.

“It’s definitely going to affect our work process and how we do it,” Superior Mechanical owner Paul Vantassel said. “We’ve got 70 trucks going in and out a day.”

Vantassel is one of the many business owners impacted by the Olmsted County Road 44 and 7th Street NW intersection shut down. While he said it’s inconvenient, he also recognizes something needs to be done.

“We see accidents here weekly. The question is how bad are the accidents. It’s a non-stop mess out there. From accidents to traffic jams, to people just not paying attention of what’s going on, to the hurry or just trying to get through the intersection. It’s unsafe. One of the unsafest intersections in Rochester,” he said.

Leash and Leads general manager Mike Schmitz agrees.

“The way it’s sitting in there, people are coming from both directions. It’s almost become a parking lot in the median. It is a problem. It’s not going away and it’s only going to get worse,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz guesses he sees about 80 percent of his customers come through the intersection, but he’s not worried about his business.

“At the end of the day, we are a destination place,” he said. “People know where they are at. It’s going to take another five minutes out of their day.”

While a closure stops the problem for now, it’s not a permanent fix.

“We’re just pushing the problem down the road. Kicking the can,” Schmitz said.

“This intersection is dangerous and needs to be closed,” Vantassel said.

According to MNDot officials, the closure will be in place until an interchange is built. Funding for it was included in several versions of the 2022 bonding bill, with a price tag of $40 million. However, the legislature adjourned before anything was approved. MNDot said it’s hopeful for future funding, but could not stand by and do nothing until then.

The closure starts next Monday, July 25.

RELATED STORY: MNDOT announces indefinite closure of intersections across Highway 14, frustrating residents (kttc.com)

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