Opening things up on 212
Area transportation advocates celebrate opening of four-lane highway expansion between Cologne and Carver
DAHLGREN TOWNSHIP — There’s a good chance that many southwest Minnesota residents have traveled along the roughly 5 miles of highway between the cities of Cologne and Carver. As part of the U.S. Highway 212 corridor, the road is traveled every day by thousands of semi trucks and vehicles from 74 of Minnesota’s 87 counties.
And now, Carver County is set to start construction to expand portions of Highway 212 to four lanes.
“This is of great importance not just for Carver and McLeod County, but for all of southern Minnesota,” said David Sturrock, of the Marshall Area Transportation Group. “Highway 212 is our region’s primary connection to the Twin Cities metro area.”
Sturrock was present at a groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of construction on Tuesday. The celebration drew regional transportation advocates as well as local, state and national officials. Sturrock said the group present included MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Metropolitan Council Chairman Charles Zelle, and U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Dean Phillips.
The planned construction on Highway 212 will realign the highway between Carver and Cologne and expand it from two to four lanes. A second phase of the project, still in the planning stages, would do the same for Highway 212 between Cologne and Norwood Young America.
The new four-lane portions of Highway 212 will be located to the north of the current roadway, which will allow the highway to stay open during construction.
“The key thing is the safety and connectivity” the updates would bring to that part of the 212 corridor, Sturrock said. Over the past 10 years, the highway between Norwood Young America and Carver has been the site of more than 300 crashes, including 10 fatal crashes.
The Highway 212 project is also unusual in that it’s happening with support from a few different entities, Sturrock said. A total of $50 million in funding was secured for the first phase of the project, which came from sources including MnDOT, the Minnesota Highway Freight Program, the Metropolitan Council, and $9 million in Carver County sales taxes.
“On something of this scale, it’s an impressive achievement,” Sturrock said.
The second portion of the project, which would involve building an interchange at the intersection of Highway 212 and Highway 51 near Bongards, would carry an estimated cost of more than $60 million. Carver County is seeking funding for Phase 2 of construction. Sturrock said the Highway 212 project has been “very competitive” for federal grant funding.
Seeing the 212 project make progress has been positive for regional transportation advocacy groups. The Southwest Corridor Transportation Coalition and the Marshall Area Transportation Group have both lobbied in support of federal grant funding for the four-lane expansions. Sturrock said in the future, he hoped that it would also be possible to add passing lanes to parts of Highway 212, after the success of similar passing lanes on the Highway 23 corridor.
Some of the early prep work for the first phase of Highway 212 construction in Carver County started earlier this spring.
“They’ve already started some of the earth moving,” Sturrock said. It added to the excitement of the groundbreaking ceremony. “When the construction is underway, that tells you it’s real.”