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With traffic between Chaska and Cologne expected to double or triple by 2030, state planners do not believe it is too early to start working on expanding the new Hwy. 212.

That was the message relayed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to dozens of people who attended a public hearing this week in Cologne, where the next proposed expansion of Hwy. 212 would end.

The expansion would extend from County Road 11 outside of Chaska to Cologne, a distance of about 7 miles. Now drivers must use the two-lane Hwy. 212 to travel between the small Carver County cities.

MnDOT estimates that the project, if it is completed, would require the relocation of two homes, one farm and one church. The project would also affect 13.5 acres of wetlands and require the abandonment of about five wells.

"We don't have construction funding ... but this work will be important for future opportunities," said Nicole Peterson, MnDOT's project manager, during the hearing Tuesday evening. The department said it did not have an estimate for how much the project might cost, and that it was probably at least 10 years away from construction.

Traffic in Cologne now totals roughly 11,000 trips a day on the existing roadway. That figure will grow to more than 30,000 by 2030, increasing to more than 50,000 a day on the western outskirts of Chaska, MnDOT officials and consultants said.

"With these kinds of volumes and a two-lane road, you're not going to be able to handle that," said Jessica Laabs of Kimley-Horn and Associates, the transportation design firm working for MnDOT. There is also the concern that with increased traffic volume will come an increase in crashes and fatalities along the existing stretch of road, Laabs said.

The public hearing, designed to discuss environmental issues and any other concerns residents might have about the project, proved to be not very controversial. Most of the concerns revolved around the location of access points and intersections. One man suggested MnDOT build a bridge at one spot on the proposed road, which he said is a popular deer crossing.

Written comments on the project's environmental impact will be taken by MnDOT through Feb. 10. The final environmental impact report will be finished in the spring.

The proposed expansion is also being driven by anticipated growth in housing and commercial opportunities along the highway corridor. MnDOT wants to eventually extend the widened highway to Norwood-Young America.

When the new section of Hwy. 212 from Eden Prairie to Chaska was completed less than two years ago, it proved to be a boon to the homeowners, businesspeople and commuters, according to government and business officials.

In fact, municipalities along the stretch of highway are working together to avoid overlapping services and retailers in the corridor as it develops.

Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280