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On Highway 14 and Broadband

I've described your current representative’s legislative style as "wait and let things happen." I don't do that with pleasure, nor do I do it lightly without evidence. It shows up for example on Highway 14 and broadband.

Making US 14 four-lane to the east has been a high priority for decades, especially for the flourishing trucking industry in New Ulm. How many gallons of diesel have been wasted by semis having to slow down for Courtland and then regain speed uphill toward Nicollet?

By 2018 Representative Torkelson had been in the legislature for a full decade, and even served as chair of the Transportation Finance Committee, and still nothing had been done. That was about the time that MNDot adjusted the rules to direct most highway money to the Twin Cities suburbs, something that apparently took Torkelson by surprise. A Mankato Free Press interview at the very end of 2018 (December 15) reported this:

Torkelson said last week he's waiting for the Minnesota Department of Transportation to finish gathering public feedback before examining the new rules…. Torkelson said lawmakers will likely look at how Corridors of Commerce weighs projects if enough concern is raised.”

I've added emphasis in two places. He said he was "waiting" to even look at the new rules until public feedback ended, and added that his committee would "likely" (not certainly or urgently) "look at" (not "object to") the new rules – but only "if enough concern is raised" – HE is the one that should have been raising concern. That's what I've called "wait and let things happen." As a result, according to the MNDot website, in 2019 the Nicollet to New Ulm stretch of Highway 14 was still “unfunded and unscheduled."

It took Governor Walz, who is from this part of the state, Representative Jeff Brand who represented Courtland and Nicollet (and who should be elected again), and the hard-working New Ulm Highway 14 Coalition, to finally shake loose the funds to complete Highway 14 to New Ulm.

Rep. Torkelson will say that the Owatonna section of Highway 14 had to be done first. I've looked carefully through the Minnesota Constitution and failed to find the provision that said Nicollet County had to get in line behind Dodge County for highway funds. It was a "rule" that he just "let happen."

We see the same "wait and let things happen" approach to extending broadband in our area. Covid made broadband especially important when students were working from home, and when telemedicine was especially needed. Farming today requires broadband. And yet, as of 2022, Brown and Redwood counties rank in the bottom 20 of Minnesota's 87 counties in broadband penetration, according to Internet Service Providers in Minnesota. Why should 67 Minnesota counties be ahead of us? Again, it took Governor Walz and infrastructure funding from President Biden finally to bring broadband border to border in Minnesota.

The record shows Representative Torkelson doing little or nothing to address the many problems facing our region. I believe you will be better served, not by a "wait and let things happen," but by an "act and make things happen" representative.


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