“Pray for me, I drive Highway 60”.
That is the slogan of the Southwest Minnesota Highway 60 Action Corporation that was organized in 1960. The groups purpose back then, as it is today, was to promote the improvement of Minnesota TH 60. They are still praying and waiting 48 years later. Last Thursday, July 24, 380 people gathered in Windom to share their experiences about traveling on Highway 60 and to urge Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) officials to complete the 4-lane expansion.
MNDOT Commissioner Thomas K. Sorel got an earful as about 25 of the 380 in attendance were able to speak over the course of the two and a half hour meeting. Worthington Daily Globe reporter Julie Buntjer covered the event and led her story with this:
One by one they walked to the microphone, sat down and shared their death-defying experiences on a stretch of Minnesota 60 that not once, not twice, but three times changes from two-lane to four-lane traffic between Windom and St. James.
From an aunt, friend and cousin who shared their stories of 28-year-old Jamie Torkelson, killed in a head-on collision on the highway on May 6, 2005, to retired school bus drivers, business people, truck drivers and city and county leaders — they pleaded with newly-appointed transportation commissioner Thomas Sorel and MnDOT officials to find the money to complete the four-lane expansion.
The Cottonwood County Citizen also covered the event: Highway 60 meeting attracts 380 to Windom Community Center.
Two area lawmakers and state transportation commissioner Thomas Sorel left Windom with a stronger sense of Highway 60’s flaws and the public’s resolve after last night’s meeting at the Windom Community Center.More than 380 people were on hand, several of them were there specifically to provide testimony on the dangers of the controversial highway. One after another, residents testified about cases where motorists became confused by the highway’s mixture of two-lane and four-lane stretches. Most stories ended with someone in the wrong lane and a “near miss,” injuries, or a fatality.
The room fell dead silent following two different stories regarding close calls involving school buses full of students.
Lawmakers, such as Sen. Jim Vickerman and Rep. Rod Hamilton expressed frustration that MnDOT leaders have failed to comply with a bill the state’s lawmakers approved this past spring - a bill that requires all of Highway 60 to be completed. Read the rest here.
Rahn Larson, editor of the Cottonwood County Citizen, questions the power and decision making of the officials at MNDOT in his editorial: MnDot vs. lawmakers? Larson asks:
Can a state agency simply refuse to enact an order passed by the Minnesota Legislature?
He then goes on to list a number of facts that proves the intent of the legislature to finish Highway 60 and then has this to say:
OK, so the bill was approved and the legislative intent was confirmed and even stressed to MnDOT leaders at least twice. So the real question is this: “Who is calling the shots for Minnesota - the legislature, or department heads for the various departments?
State Senator Jim Vickerman (DFL) and Representative Rod Hamilton (GOP) were both at this meeting in Windom but missing in action was Representative Doug Magnus (GOP). Of course it was probably a wise decision on his part to stay away from such a large gathering since he supported Governor Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation legislation. Fortunately the legislature was able to overide that veto.
In the coming week we will probably find out if Governor Pawlenty will be chosen as McCain’s running mate. He will probably bring along his veto pen. We will also remember the collapse of the I35W bridge. Our infrasturcture needs our obvious and urgent and we could use some real leadership on this issue. Unfortunately we have not received that from the Governor or Representative Magnus.
The Worthington Daily Globe has this compelling audio of Hillary Mathis speaking of her cousin’s tragic death on Highway 60.
(click the arrow)
Peace & solidarity,