Created: 07/14/2014 7:02 PM KAALtv.com
By: Steph Crock
(ABC 6 News) -- Construction has started on one of Minnesota's deadliest highways. Several deadly crashes have happened on Highway 14 stretching from Byron, all the way to Mankato. The most notorious spot, is just east of Owatonna where the road narrows to only two lanes.
"I only took it a couple of times on my way back from school because I had to pick up my children in Byron and it is horrid," said driver Pricilla Ruemping. She used to commute from Byron to Mankato and avoided Highway 14 as much as possible. "I had also heard a lot of horror stories about Highway 14 and going towards Owatonna, from Byron to Owatonna," she said.
Just two years ago, three people were killed in a head-on collision in that area. "Like I said, with the wind blowing and snow, visibility is not the greatest and the big trucks were the big thing, and there are a lot of big trucks that would go along that route," said Ruemping.
MnDOT crews have started to widen that three mile stretch of Highway 14 just east of Owatonna from two lanes to four, plus some other upgrades... "Like the turn lanes, to make a right turn it will be a lot longer, so at those highway speeds, when you’re going to slow down to make a turn, it's nice to have that longer stretch where you can slow down, so I think you'll see that safety piece as well," said Mike Dougherty with MnDOT.
"I think it's about time that they did it. There's been a lot of accidents from what I’ve been reading and told and I think it would be much easier to drive," said Ruemping.
The project won’t be completed until sometime in the fall of 2015, so MnDOT is warning drivers to be extra cautious around the added construction. "It's a three mile construction zone so we just ask people to be careful, put the cellphone down, drive a little slower through there," said Dougherty.
Though only a small portion of the highway is getting a makeover, Ruemping says it’s at least a step in the right direction. "I'm glad that they’re doing it. I think it's going to cut down the number of accidents and it's going to make it much easier to drive that route," she said.
The construction is also part of the state's “Corridors of Commerce” program, making room from more traffic in large part from the DMC initiative. Two lanes will be open during the majority of the construction, however there will be a ten day closure, but that won’t happen until sometime after the Steele County Fair, likely in August.