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September 22, 2021

6/4/2021 2:14:00 PM
Local officials meet with Rep. Stauber to discuss Highway 8

The 100 or so people who attended a roundtable with U.S. Congressman Pete Stauber CD-8, on Thursday went away with a homework assignment to get the word out about Highway 8 and its shortfalls.  They were told to contact state leaders. Correspond with federal transportation officials. Contact transportation commissioners. Make sure everybody knows what Highway 8 needs and why.

Congressman Stauber drew an audience of mostly local elected officials and a few regular citizens in an hour long program at Uncommon Loon brewery in Chisago City.  The event was to review what’s funded and what needs funding for highway improvements and to get suggestions direct from the community on improvements desired.  

Congressman Stauber said he will use what he hears to advocate for highway monies in Congress.  He  assured everyone  Highway 8 is his top priority.

The Chisago Lakes Schools Superintendent was there.  County engineers for Chisago and Washington counties also attended.  Regional State Legislators were all there.  City officials from Wyoming, Chisago City and Lindstrom were on hand.  Fran Miron, Washington County Commissioner, spoke in support of the highway as a priority project even in that county,  and three Chisago County Commissioners and the Chisago County Administrator were on hand.

Rep. Stauber served as a county commissioner himself for St Louis County before going to represent the 8th District in D.C.  He applauded the efforts already underway with Minnesota Dept. of Transportation and commended Chisago County for bringing along adjacent governing units to advocate for Highway 8.  Stauber said Congress likes to see collaboration and dialogue concerning big projects.  When projects are brought forward with community backing and in a collective manner, they have the best chance of support.

Minnesota State Rep. Anne Neu Brindley added to that saying projects at the state level most apt to win funding in St. Paul are ones the legislators are aware of.  “We need you to advocate (statewide) too.”

Rep. Bob Dettmer said he has family in Lindstrom and he uses Highway 8 frequently for visits and to attend his church. He is very familiar with safety and operational shortcomings the highway suffers from.

The Washington County Commissioner for the Forest Lake area, Fran Miron spoke of other endeavors shared with Chisago County on water quality and watershed issues.  ”We are proud to be shoulder to shoulder with Chisago County on this.” he concluded.

Commerce was represented by Kyle Peterson, Winehaven,  who commented on freight obstacles and visitors’ concerns about the highway.  Frankie Dusenka, boat dealer, said he hears from customers more and more that they can’t deal with Highway 8.  

Katie Malchow, Chisago Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, said the highway limits what’s possible.  Lots of people in this area work to make this a desired place to live and raise a family, she commented, and the situation with Highway 8 just hampers that.

A citizen offered his opinion the four-lane expansion proposed from Greenway east to Karmel Ave.  is not an answer in itself. When the highway narrows again at Chisago City there will be a bottleneck.

Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplett explained this coming project phase (hoping for a 2024 start) is not going to address everything. “It will tick some traffic management boxes” but more work will need to be done, he agreed. There’s  22,000 vehicles a day, however, using the highway now, he said.  

Responding to a comment on hazardous bus stop locations, Triplett promised there won’t be any bus stops on the highway when this is done.  “Frontage and backage roads” are part of the plan.  Access points will be consolidated and drastically reduced.

To communicate the highway needs to the state legislature, the committee chairs for Transportation Finance and Policy are good places to begin: the House Committee Chair is Frank Hornstein, 545 Reverend Martin Luther King Blvd. St Paul, MN 55155.  

Or e mail to frank.hornstein@house.mn

In the state Senate the Chair is Sen. Scott Newman, 3105 MN Senate Building St Paul, MN 55155. Email is scott.newman@senate.mn

The information about plans for the highway are found on-line at www.chisagocounty.us/1115/Trunk-Highway-8

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