Late Tuesday, May 22, 2023, the Minnesota legislature approved $23 million in state capital investment dollars to help fund the following Olmsted County initiatives:
- $10 million toward construction of a materials recovery facility (MRF).
- $8 million toward an exhibition center at Graham Park.
- $5 million toward an interchange at the intersection of County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 44 and Trunk Highway (TH) 14.
“This is very exciting news for Olmsted County,” said Olmsted County Board of Commissioners Chair Gregg Wright. “We have been working to secure funding for these much-needed initiatives for some time. We are thrilled the Minnesota legislature saw the value in these three projects and how they will benefit Southeast Minnesota. We would also like to thank our local lawmakers for their continued advocacy for these projects.”
Materials recovery facility
The objectives of the MRF are to remove recyclable and noncombustible materials from the waste stream to increase recycling and delay the need for expansion of the Olmsted Waste-to-Energy Facility (OWEF). The new MRF will expand upon Olmsted County’s current integrated solid waste management system by reclaiming materials and removing problematic items from the waste stream.
The new 30,000-square-foot MRF will be located on the south side of the OWEF which currently accepts waste from Olmsted and Dodge counties. The total cost of the project is $32.5 million.
Graham Park exhibition center
Olmsted County sought funds to construct a regional, multi-use exhibition center at Graham Park to serve important regional and community needs, drive year-round activity, and generate new economic opportunity. A new exhibition center is intended to replace some of the animal agriculture buildings and become the primary flat floor event venue at Graham Park.
The number of events of all kinds at Graham Park has been steadily increasing over the past few years. The exhibition center will accommodate a wide variety of community events, ethnic, cultural celebrations and festivals, and entertainment and leisure activities to further support the increased demand.
Interchange at CSAH 44/TH 14
This project consists of a proposed interchange at CSAH 44 and TH 14, and an associated flyover structure at 7th Street NW. Infrastructure elements include four bridge structures, retaining walls, pavement, lighting, and active transportation facilities. Constructing this interchange and the associated flyover structure at 7th Street NW will address three main goals: safety, mobility, and capacity/growth.
- Safety: A skewed geometric angle, high traffic volumes traveling at 65 MPH, and a rail crossing contribute to the safety concerns and complexity of this intersection. Crashes at the intersection averaged 10-13 per year and there was a fatality in 2020. MnDOT recently closed the median of the intersection due to these safety concerns. While the TH 14 median closure improves safety at the CSAH 44 location, it has increased concerns at other locations along the highway and on the local system – the closure is not a long-term solution. The proposed interchange at CSAH 44 and TH14 will remove two at-grade intersections, eliminate 64 conflict points, and will provide urgently needed safety improvements for this portion of the TH 14 corridor.
- Mobility: The interchange will improve the regional corridor for commuters into Rochester, as well as a regional freight route, and provide safe access to existing commercial and residential development.
- Capacity/growth: Due to its location within the Rochester future urban growth boundary, the interchange will provide access for future growth and economic development. Additionally, the interchange is identified as a need in the Long-Range Transportation Plan of the Rochester-Olmsted Council of Governments.
Construction of this interchange is expected to cost $55 million. Olmsted County has applied for a federal RAISE grant as well as funding through the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Corridors of Commerce program to help secure additional funding for this project.
Next steps for Olmsted County
The county does not yet know when the $23 million in funds will arrive. However, Olmsted County will be working closely with its partners at the state to finalize plans for each of these initiatives.
“Our work here is not done,” explained Olmsted County Administrator Heidi Welsch. “We will continue working diligently to move these projects forward, secure additional funds, and turn these plans into reality.”