Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, June 18, 2001

Wright County to take lead in attempt to get Hwy 55 funding

By John Holler

One of the selling points of Wright County for businesses and "bedroom community" residents moving into a county is its access to major roadways, including I-94 and Hwys. 12 and 55.

But, anyone who had driven Hwy. 55 into the Twin Cities knows that the traffic congestion is getting worse with each passing year.

Because of that, a Hwy. 55 coalition group was formed earlier this year and, at the Tuesday meeting of the Wright County Board, Highway Engineer Wayne Fingalson said Wright County has become the unit of government leading the charge to get funding from the federal and state government for improvements to the highway because of the high volume of traffic generated in the county.

"(Wright County) has become the lead agency pretty much by default," Fingalson said. "It hasn't been a real big thing so far, but it could turn into more of an issue as it goes on."

Wright County has taken the lead in the three meetings of the corridor group, with county board Chair Ken Jude named chairman of the committee meetings.

The purpose of the corridor group is to seeking 2002 state and federal bonding money. Safety is the primary concern, since several accidents occur on Hwy. 55 every year.

The hope is that the highway will eventually be expanded to four lanes all the way from Buffalo to where the road meets up with I-494 in Plymouth.

Fingalson, who is going to Washington D.C. with Commissioner Elmer Eichelberg this month in hopes of getting federal funding for the project, said competition is fierce for funding dollars, and the Hwy. 55 project is up against higher visibility projects, like the Hwy. 62 (Crosstown Highway) project in the Twin Cities.

"Everyone is going after the same pot of money," Fingalson said. "It won't be easy (to get funding approval) because of the competition. But we're gearing up to try to get what we can."

While no funding is guaranteed, the corridor group is planning more meetings to map out stategy in hopes of getting funding for a Hwy. 55 expansion - whether for next year, or somewhere down the line.


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