A portion of Highway 5 in Chanhassen is one step closer to being renamed Prince Rogers Nelson Memorial Highway.
After the Chanhassen City Council voiced its support for a citizen action request to rename the road last fall, District 47 Sen. Julia Coleman (R-Chanhassen) and District 47B Rep. Greg Boe (R-Chanhassen) have drafted a bill that would allow the Minnesota Department of Transportation to designate the seven miles between Interstate 494 and Galpin Drive as a memorial route for the late rockstar.
“Prince was known and admired worldwide, and yet he chose to stay here in Minnesota in our community. A lot of folks are proud of that, and that’s what drove a lot of the effort to honor him,” Boe said.
“He wasn’t just a celebrity we boasted about, he was our neighbor who cares about this community,” added Coleman in a statement. “This highway sign is a small way to memorialize that bond.”
Chanhassen resident Bob Finn, who submitted the initial request, with longtime friend of Prince and Paisley Park security guard Mark Webster, also started a petition supporting the renaming that has since received almost 3,400 signatures. If the bill passes, the two will be responsible for the cost of the signs — around $2,000 — but Finn said it’s likely the community will help out.
“We’re just excited and encouraged that there’s so much support there. We’re going to do a crowdfunding effort to get the signs paid for ... Prince has fans all around the world, and I think once [the state] approves the change, we’ll get even more traction,” Finn said.
However, renaming a part of Highway 5 is not as easy as putting up a new sign.
Fifty miles of Highway 5, including the potential Prince segment, is already a memorial highway, named after former Sibley County state senator Augie Mueller. The Minnesota Department of Transportation does not allow new memorial designations on highways already named, so the Mueller family would have to give up a portion of the road.
After speaking with the family, Boe said they are open to the change, but would want to make sure the Sibley County portion, where Mueller lived and served, remains intact. Only the portions in Chanhassen would change, he added.
As of late March, both the House and Senate bills to allow the change have been drafted, Boe said. But despite Finn and Webster’s hopes of getting the sign up by Prince’s birthday on June 7, it probably won’t be approved this year.
2021 is a year focused on the state budget, and the bill’s discussion will most likely be pushed back to the beginning of next year’s session in February, Boe said. As long as there are no major changes, Finn and Webster could get the go-ahead by March 2022.
As to if the sign can be purple? MnDOT isn’t known to allow colors other than brown, but “we’ll try our best,” Boe said.
“Maybe we can have a purple symbol,” he said.