BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN With the Minnesota legislative session beginning Tuesday, Rep. Jerry Hertaus, of Greenfield, is ready to introduce two different bills aimed at securing funding for Highway 12 improvements.
“One bill is for the express purpose of traveling independent in the transportation bill, and a second piece to travel in the bonding bill,” Hertaus said during Thursday’s Highway 12 Safety Coalition meeting.
Having draft legislation connected to both of those omnibus bills increases the odds of Highway 12 funding being approved.
“I’m very optimistic we’ll be able to get something done, but I don’t want to over-promise based on how messy the legislative process can be,” Hertaus said.
Leading up to the session, Hertaus has been gathering signatures of support, including from Rep. Joe McDonald, of Delano.
Transportation chairs in both the House and the Senate have verbally committed to having hearings regarding Hertaus’ bills.
“We already have a commitment that it most likely will be considered in a transportation bill,” Hertaus added.
Along the way, there will be public hearings that Hertaus encouraged coalition members to attend, testify at, and present a PowerPoint regarding the crashes on Highway 12.
Hertaus said that media attention to recent crashes on Highway 12 has improved the odds of action being taken.
If Highway 12 funding is not included in a transportation or bonding bill, Hertaus said there is also an alternative path to move legislation through the general register.
Hertaus is pushing for between $10 million and $20 million for three projects: extending the barrier from Wayzata to Maple Plain, intersection improvements at Hennepin County Road 90, and realignment of Hennepin County Road 92.
“I’ve been advised that best-case scenario is it would be 2018 before this is all done,” Hertaus said.
However, MnDOT Metro West Area engineer Ron Rauchle clarified that MnDOT is already working on a design for a barrier on the Long Lake bypass, with a goal of installing it in 2016, while also adding turn lanes at the County Road 92 intersections by the end of the year. He added that MnDOT is exploring alternative funding options in case state funding falls through.
“The legislature is working on their end; we’re working on our end,” Rauchle said.
Larger undertakings, such as realigning County Road 92, will take longer, as it requires right-of-way acquisition, though Hertaus is also optimistic that process could go smoothly.
“I have a meeting with one of the principally affected landowners,” Hertaus said. “That individual has indicated in the past that he’s supportive of looking at plans and proposals.”
Odds and ends
In other business, the coalition:
• approved handouts detailing the leading causes of crashes on Highway 12 and encouraging individuals to call 911 to report dangerous driving. Law enforcement officers will hand them out to drivers as part of the coalition’s educational efforts.
• learned from Minnesota State Patrol Captain Mike Hanson that he is encouraging officers on the night shift to patrol Highway 12 more frequently.
• learned the process for getting a permit to install a flashing “two-way traffic” sign before the start of the “super 2” bypass by Long Lake, which the cities of Wayzata and Orono would likely share the costs associated with installation and maintenance. It was also noted that individuals have expressed interest in donating to help improve Highway 12, and that such donations could go toward costs associated with the sign.
• learned that MnDOT is researching options to make crosswalks in Cokato safer.