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Location and Transportation

Location and Transportation

Winona’s riverside location has been an integral part of life in the area since its earliest days, providing unrivaled means of transportation and establishing the town as a leading regional center of activity. The Winona Area Chamber of Commerce has a long history of promoting transportation projects in the Winona area that were, and are, a benefit for the entire region. Active promotion of projects along the Mississippi River, endorsement for the Winona Airport and support for the Commercial Harbor, Interstate Bridge and highway construction have a significant place in the Chamber’s history.

Winona’s riverside

Promoting the River
The Chamber has always been well aware of the importance of the Mississippi River. Since the 1920s, the Chamber has been an important advocate for many projects, including the construction of a new river terminal and the dredging of the Mississippi River Channel to a depth of nine feet in the 1920s and 30s; the dredging of Crooked Slough in March 1951; the addition of two new harbors (one for pleasure craft and one for commercial shipping) in 1958; the development of a Port Authority in 1968; and the expansion of the Port Authority Barge Fleeting area in 1976. Today, the Chamber continues to champion the transportation uses of the River and the growth of Commercial Harbor, which remains a major asset for business and industry in the Winona area.

Roads and Highways
Highway construction was promoted and endorsed by the Chamber from its earliest days. The Chamber was active in supporting road and infrastructure projects throughout Winona County. In 1929, the Chamber planned a celebration for the new Highway No. 8 – the gateway to Minnesota – from La Crosse to Winona and Wabasha. On April 10, 1951, the Chamber’s Highway Committee promoted the construction of the four-lane Highway 61 between St. Paul and La Crescent. Lack of funds put a damper on the project for more than a decade, but support for Highway 61 improvements continued throughout many decades, and, in March 1965, the Chamber worked with legislators to support bonding for the project. Today, U.S. Route 61/14 furnishes the area with a highly utilized and valuable link to numerous U.S. markets.

The fund drive for a new airport was spearheaded in 1944 by Roy Patneaude, chairman of the Chamber’s Airport Committee, and Mayor William Galewski. They hoped to raise $70,000. The Chamber donated more than $14,000 to the City for an administrative building at the airport.

On June 18, 1949, the new Winona Airport was dedicated. The airport cost was in the vicinity of $730,000, with funding from federal, state and local government. Area citizens contributed over $75,000. The dedication ceremony included many prominent figures that cited Winona’s importance as a transportation center for the region.

The Winona Municipal Airport, also known as Max Conrad Field, currently maintains a 5,100-foot paved runway and modern facilities that handle private, corporate and charter aircraft.

Interstate Bridge
In June 1938, the Junior Chamber passed a resolution noting the necessity of replacing the bridge over the Mississippi River. It stated, “…the highway bridge over the Mississippi River at Winona is an imperative need in view of the fact that the present structure was built in 1892 and has a weight restriction of seven and one half tons and is inadequate and unsafe for present highway traffic demands.”

The Bridge Bill was presented to President Roosevelt and was supported by City and Chamber officials as necessary for trade and commerce for the area. Winona’s new $1,500,000 bridge was dedicated and opened on November 21, 1942.

Source: Winona Republican Herald 11-14-1939

The Last Decade
The Chamber was active in the Pelzer Street Overpass Project and provided input on detour routes during construction. The project construction occurred in 2006 and 2007 and included the reconstruction of Pelzer Street from a two-lane to a four-lane roadway, building a bridge over a railroad, widening Highway 14 and reconstructing intersections at Highway 14/61 and Fifth and Pelzer streets. It was the largest public works project undertaken by the City of Winona at $21.5 million and involved over 70 partial and full acquisitions by the Port Authority.

The Lake Winona Dredging Project was completed in November 2001. The City funded the project by using a one-half cent sales tax. The dredge material was used to fill Riverbend Industrial Park, providing much needed land for development. WAIDA and the Chamber of Commerce held informational meetings and supported the project. Road and infrastructure projects for this area occurred in late 1990 and throughout the decade.

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