It helps to have connections, and Rochester will be investing in several transportation connection projects in the near future.
The reason why? Work has begun on the $6.5 billion Destination Medical Center project, bringing significant construction and additional investment over the next 20 years. The goal of DMC is to turn downtown Rochester into a global biotech hub and destination for health and wellness, building on the renowned reputation of the Mayo Clinic, the city’s largest employer.
One effort of the project is investment in infrastructure, upgrades that will allow developers to construct medical, commercial, academic and residential buildings throughout the district and city. Plans include adding more skywalks, underground passageways and heated sidewalks downtown in order to winterize the area for visitors in the cold weather months. A series of multi-story parking garages is also in the planning stages.
City officials have proposed a City Loop bicycle route around downtown Rochester. The City Loop would offer connections to five downtown DMC sub-districts, and would allow visitors, residents and workers to access many nature, culture and entertainment venues.
The Roads Ahead
Rochester already has good transportation assets in place, including convenience to Interstate 90 and U.S. Highways 14, 52 and 63. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has been looking into any upgrades needed within the entire region to help accommodate the Destination Medical Center effort, since many of the estimated 25,000-45,000 new downtown DMC workers over the next 20 years will be commuting to Rochester from surrounding cities.
“Health care will account for many of the DMC jobs, but other sectors such as transportation will also be affected, so we need to maintain and upgrade roads for manufacturers to ship more products and trucks to move more goods,” says Mike Dougherty, MnDOT public affairs coordinator in District 6.
He points out that a number of regional infrastructure projects already began in 2017, including repaving along U.S. 52 from just north of Rochester to south of Cannon Falls. Two bridge replacements also are underway on Highway 52 at Cannon Falls and Zumbrota.
“A lot of people commute into Rochester along Highway 52 from places like Red Wing, Zumbrota and Pine Island, and those numbers are only going to get larger with DMC,” Dougherty says. “MnDOT is making traveling that corridor smoother and safer, and we will address other initiatives as needed.”
Another transportation asset in the city is Rochester International Airport, located only 7 miles from downtown. Rochester International is the second-busiest airport in Minnesota. United Airlines began service in June 2017, giving the airport three major carriers along with American and Delta.
“Shortly after we learned about United coming here, Delta announced it is providing a second daily flight to Atlanta,” says John Reed, executive director of Rochester International Airport. “Airlines are paying more attention to what is happening here in Rochester, and a lot has to do with Destination Medical Center.”
Besides Atlanta, the airport offers nonstop flights to Chicago and Minneapolis, and that list will only get larger.
“There are also FedEx 757 jets that haul an incredible amount of cargo in and out of this region,” Reed says. “In addition, we are about to launch a $12 million upgrade to a terminal that includes a brand new U.S. customs facility to support all of the private international arrivals, many of which come here for Mayo Clinic.”
Reed says about 600 employees work for all the operations at Rochester International.
“We have around 40,000 takeoffs and landings a year, and those numbers will only increase,” he says. “We are ready for DMC.”