HASTINGS, Minn. — The funding search for the long-sought Highway 316 project could be entering the home stretch.

Rep. Tony Jurgens and Sen. Karla Bigham introduced legislation Feb. 11 seeking the final $800,000 needed to fund a construction project on the highway from Highway 61 to the city limits near Hope Lutheran Church. The high-traffic roadway stretches south from Hastings toward Welch and includes a turn-off to Treasure Island Resort and Casino.

"The Highway 316 project is a critical funding request from Hastings residents and local officials," Jurgens said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this project properly funded."

Minnesota Department of Transportation staff secured $1 million for the project through a program under the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for safety improvements, leaving an $800,000 shortfall.

"So we still have that gap," Bigham said. "So what Representative Jurgens and I are doing is putting in a bill for cash that will close that gap."

The planned changes include:

  • Three roundabouts at Spiral Boulevard, Tiffany Drive and Tuttle Drive, which proponents say will enhance safety along the corridor.

  • Trail extensions along the highway for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as added pedestrian crossings.
  • A center median with access closures to minimize risky left turns.

The funding push is the culmination of years of discussions, open houses and forums on the topic. Residents voiced safety concerns over portions of the highway when Jurgens first began campaigning around town, including vehicle speed, accessibility, turning into driveways and turning left across oncoming traffic.

"About that time I started my first term, MnDOT announced they were going to raise the speed limit on that section of road," he said. "I actually had legislation drafted that put a moratorium on any speed limit increases."

That legislation was brought to MnDOT's attention, so representatives met with Jurgens to see if they both could come to an understanding.

"We started negotiating and came to an agreement they would leave the speed limit at 35 miles per hour instead of increasing it," Jurgens added. "Also, they would hold public meetings and work with the city of Hastings to come up with a safer roadway design."

Jurgens said the House will seek the last bit of funding through this year's bonding proposal, with other funding avenues also being considered. He said one of the possible ways would be to use some of the state's budget surplus.

"$800,000 is a lot of money to a city like Hastings," he said. "But when you're looking at a forecast $1.3 billion budget surplus, $800,000 seems like money well spent."

Both bills face committee review before a possible vote in the House and Senate. The full text can be read at tinyurl.com/wwe7o2v.