Minnesota legislators want to rename highway after Prince

Tim Harlow, Star Tribune
·3 min read

Two Minnesota legislators say they are introducing measures that will allow the Minnesota Department of Transportation to designate a segment of Hwy. 5 that runs through Chanhassen as a memorial route in honor of the late pop star Prince.

Sen. Julia Coleman, R-Chanhassen, and Rep. Greg Boe, R-Chanhassen, are drafting bills that would pave the way for the Prince Rogers Nelson Memorial Highway. The bills could be ready for discussion by Monday.

"He is a favorite son on this side of the metro," Boe said. "Chanhassen is proud to have him in the community. There are a lot of fans of his music."

MnDOT has designated bridges and highways to commemorate individuals or organizations that have provided a significant public service or sacrifice to the state since 1959. There are now 96 roads and bridges that carry memorial designations. The longest is the Voyageur Hwy. spanning 844 miles. The shortest is the Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp Bridge in Rosemount, at just .06 miles or 316 feet.

Mark Webster, a longtime friend of the musical icon, is pushing to have 7 miles of Hwy. 5 between Interstate 494 and Galpin Drive designated to honor Prince, who died of an accidental overdose in April 2016.

Under normal circumstances, MnDOT posts signs after the Legislature grants approval. But since the portion of Hwy. 5 between Hwy. 101 and Galpin is already known as "Augie Mueller Memorial Highway" in honor of the former state senator from Sibley County, additional action would be needed, said Jake Loesch, a MnDOT spokesman.

MnDOT requires that new memorial designations must be on sections of highways not already named, so in this case "the memorial route for Mueller would have to be shortened or altered," Loesch said. "It would be up to the Legislature to sort that out, whether that would be amending the Mueller designation or changing what is proposed for Prince."

The Mueller highway designation stretches nearly 50 miles from Chanhassen to Gaylord, Minn. Webster is hoping the family would be willing to give up a small part of it.

"We don't want the whole highway," said Webster, who works as a security guard at Paisley Park, Prince's home and recording studio turned museum. "We just want 2 to 3 miles."

The Mueller family might be on board, Boe said, if the portion of Hwy. 5 in Sibley County remains untouched.

"We will tread carefully to keep moving forward," Boe said.

Webster has collected more than 3,100 signatures on a change.org petition and last fall won backing from the Chanhassen City Council for initiatives to honor Prince's life and legacy.

"Prince has given a lot to Chanhassen," Webster said. "He is an asset to Minnesota and the whole world."

A typical memorial sign displays the name of the person or entity being recognized, followed by the words "Memorial Highway" or "Memorial Bridge." Those requesting signs must pay for them, which is about $2,000 for two signs, one facing each direction, MnDOT said.

If approved, Prince's sign will not be in his signature purple. Memorial signs feature white letters on a brown background. And Hwy. 5, also known as Arboretum Boulevard, would keep its official name.

"I hope we can make this happen," Webster said. "I'd love to see his name last for eternity."

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