A crowd of about a hundred people attended the Highway 14 open house Tuesday night, packing the conference room of the Minnesota Department of Transportation construction office in Owatonna. Residents and property owners had several questions for principal engineer for the project Tory Thompson.

The project will expand 12.5 miles of road to a four-lane highway between Owatonna and Dodge Center, south of the current roadway and generally running parallel to the Canadian Pacific Railroad line. The new path will veer south of the railroad where the current highway crosses it.

The new road will travel south of Claremont. One property owner expressed concern about access to his farm. The project will impact 20 property owners in Steele County and 68 in Dodge County. Thompson said MnDOT is in the process of working with those land owners to acquire right-of-way.

New interchanges and bridges will be constructed at Highway 56 and Dodge County Road 3. Overpasses will be built at Dodge County Road 1, Steele County Road 16 and the Canadian Pacific Railway at Highway 56.

The current Highway 14 near Highway 56 will be rejoined with old Highway 14. The project includes construction of several miles of local roads. The new road will be access-controlled and many of the county roads that intersect the current road won't with the new highway.

MnDOT reports that approximately 18,000 commute daily along the corridor. Thompson said the new four-lane should be open to traffic in the fall of 2021. Contract letting will take place in August and some work will likely begin next winter. Thompson said some tree clearing and building demolition on right-of-way property will be among the first steps.

The approximate cost of the highway construction is $115 million. The total project cost is about $144 million which includes land acquisition and other miscellaneous expenses.

The project is able to move forward after a legislative fix to the funding for the expansion passed this session.