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They've been making progress as long as the weather's been cooperating, but Mother Nature has spoken and construction has wrapped for the year on a much-anticipated project in southeast Minnesota.

Anyone who's ever driven from Rochester to Owatonna (which is just about ALL of us at one time or another, right?) knows how frustrating, not to mention, dangerous, that two-lane stretch of Highway-14 is in Dodge and Steele counties. Which is why cheers went up all over southeast Minnesota a few years ago when state leaders FINALLY included money in the bonding bill to expand that stretch and make it four lanes.

And the Minnesota Department of Transportation noted in an email release earlier this week that even though they've now stopped for the year, a LOT of progress on the project has been already been made. The thing is, though, you and I probably couldn't see a lot of that progress, seeing as it was taking place on the new lanes, out of view from the current Highway-14.

But progress WAS being made. In fact, one of the cool features of the new highway that was installed this year is an underground animal crossing that should help decrease the number of car-deer crashes on that stretch of road. (You can check out more on that part of the project HERE.)

MnDOT also noted that several bridges over the new highway are being built, with one (Dodge County Road 1) already open. And paving was even done on about 4 miles of the new stretch, mainly near Claremont. All in all, the release noted, they're still on track to complete the project in 2022, though depending on if the weather cooperates, traffic could be driving on the new lanes late in 2021.

And, first on the docket when things thaw next spring are: More paving will be along the remaining 12.5-mile new route, completion of the Dodge County Road 3 and Steele County Road 16 bridges, as well as construction and completion of the Highway-14 interchange at Highway-56 and Dodge County Road 5. You can find out more about the entire Highway-14 expansion HERE.

There's no doubt the new four-lane stretch of Highway-14 will make traveling between Rochester and Owatonna much safer. And speaking of safety, just how safe is the neighborhood you live in right now? Keep scrolling to take a look at the safest neighborhoods in the Med City!

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KEEP READING: 10 Safest Neighborhoods in Rochester