Official look to stimulus dollars to fund Highway 52 projectGoodhue County officials are seeking a $20 million grant to make Highway 52 and County Road 24 in Cannon Falls safer.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
Goodhue County officials are seeking a $20 million grant to make Highway 52 and County Road 24 in Cannon Falls safer.
Officials applied for state monies earlier this year for an interchange and said they were disappointed to learn the money was awarded to a project near Elk Run, a 2,325-acre development slated for construction in Pine Island.
"Cannon Falls is a known safety problem. People are dying there," said Greg Isakson, Goodhue County Public Works director. "Elk Run is a potential development. It just seems there were a lot of politics involved on the decision to fund that project."
Up to $1.5 billion is being made available to states through the federal government's stimulus program. The competitive grants will be awarded to transportation infrastructure projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area, or a region.
Local officials say the grant -- along with $7.9 million in county, city of Cannon Falls and state money -- would help build an interchange at the dangerous and busy intersection.
The money would not complete the overhaul county officials have mapped out for the area but would improve the existing layout, Isakson said.
"It's a lot better than nothing," he added.
Commissioner Richard Samuelson, who represents the Cannon Falls area, has fought for years for safety improvements on Highway 52.
He said he supports projects like Elk Run and the economic benefits they offer.
Samuelson said he hopes state and federal officials also are willing to fund projects that improve public safety.
"I hope that the state doesn't turn their eyes on safety ... and only look for economic development projects," Samuelson said this week. "We need that too but we also need a safe way on and off this highway in a very busy Cannon Falls area."
According to the grant application, Cannon Falls Medical Center officials have committed to building a new clinic in conjunction with the interchange's construction.
The facility will include a level four trauma center, the first of its kind on Highway 52 between Rochester and the Twin Cities.
Grant winners will be announced this winter, Isakson said. The interchange must be built by 2012 if the county is awarded the money.
"We certainly deserve to have this grant. We've really got our fingers crossed," Samuelson said. "We've been left out enough so it's our turn."
Isakson said competition for the money will be stiff but the Cannon Falls project should be in the running.
"It's an important project," he said.