Highway 212 is not a partisan issue, improvements to the road are much needed, and it’s reach and impact extend far beyond Carver County.
Those were the key themes emerging on Tuesday, May 4, at a groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of a two-year project to widen and improve U.S. Highway 212 through Dahlgren Township approximately five miles from Carver to Cologne.
Funding has been achieved to complete the improvements to Cologne, with a goal to extend Highway 212 to a four-lane expressway to Norwood Young America in the coming years.
Total project cost for the Dahlgren portion is estimated at about $35 million, which includes $28 million for construction and the remainder for land acquisition and project development costs. Construction involves upgrading highway pavement, highway realignment, increasing travel lanes from two to four, and creating safer routes to get on, off and cross Highway 212.
James Ische, lifetime Carver County resident, former county commissioner and long-time advocate for improvements, called the existing highway deadly, noting the number of accidents and lives lost over the years, including some friends of his family.
Nearly a dozen other speakers representing various organizations and jurisdictions involved in the Highway 212 project highlighted other benefits, which include easing traffic congestion and enhancing freight connections.
Speaker John Fahey, county commissioner for District 5, which includes Carver to Norwood Young America, pointed out the highway’s value in moving agricultural products from Carver County and beyond.
Commissioner Tim Lynch, who represents District 4, which includes Waconia, highlighted the broader impacts, noting that Highway 212 serves a 22,000 square mile area with freight connections from the Twin Cities through western Minnesota and beyond.
The groundbreaking attracted mayors and officials from neighboring communities, and even a busload of representatives from McLeod County to the west. And there’s interest in the project all the way out to Billings, Mont., said speaker Randy Maluchnik, former Carver County commissioner and current Southwest Corridor Transportation Coalition (SCTC) president.
Many speakers at the groundbreaking event highlighted how long the project was in the works, noting that there was talk about a new road coming to the area since the 1960s.
Now, it’s finally happening.
Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher lauded the county-led state road project and the partnership to achieve it. MnDOT is providing construction administration and inspection at no cost to the project.
Carver County and the SWCTC highway advocacy group secured funding from various sources, including state and federal dollars, the Metropolitan Council, and the county’s own transportation sales tax.
State representatives Jim Nash, Greg Boe, Glenn Gruenhagen, congressmen Tom Emmer and Dean Phillips, Charles Zelle, Met Council chair, and event emcee Lyndon Robjent, Carver County engineer, all talked about the cooperation and bipartisan nature of the project.
“This what we should be doing as legislators,” said Rep. Nash (R-Waconia).
“Better to be shoveling dirt than spreading mud,” remarked Congressman Phillips (D-MN-03).
Earth moving is already well under way.
This year, all road work will be off existing Highway 212, including grading, bridge construction over Carver Creek, and sand and gravel placement on the new highway corridor. Most of the work will start on the west half of the project and gradually move east, according to project manager Darin Mielke.
Next year, 2022 work will involve two major traffic shifts so crews can complete portions of the new corridor and make connections to the existing highway.
There are no planned closures of Highway 212 in 2021, but drivers should expect to see flaggers, and short delays are possible weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
MnDOT Commissioner Anderson Kelliher noted that 2020 was an unprecedented year for traffic accidents involving road crews, and encouraged motorists to slow down and drive with care through the work zone.