Highway 316 funding, and other news (3/8/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/8/2019

Hello from the State Capitol,

As the City of Hastings and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) move forward with plans to improve safety along Highway 316, I am also working on a series of bills designed to help pay for the needed road improvements.

This collaboration between the City and the transportation department was what I was hoping for in 2017 when I reached an agreement with MnDOT to curb its increased speed limit plan in this section of Hastings. They have now developed a very sensible safety improvement proposal, and I’m looking at multiple ways that the State can help contribute to its construction.

The goal for the Highway 316 corridor was to increase safety, lower speeds and provide better ways to control traffic. MnDOT’s plan, which has been endorsed by the Hastings City Council, would install roundabouts at Spiral Boulevard, as well as Tiffany and Tuttle drives, construct bike and pedestrian paths on both sides of the highway and add a center median. The project is scheduled to begin in the year 2021.

According to projections, the total construction cost is estimated to be in the $4.55 – $5.56 million range. Current funding available for Highway 316 from MnDOT and the City of Hastings is $3.010 million, leaving a funding gap of roughly $1.54 – $2.55 million.

We need to pursue every avenue available to us for Highway 316 funding. I don’t want to leave any stone unturned here at the Capitol. This is why I’m authoring a proposal that would authorize capital investment bonds to fill the Highway 316 funding gap. I’ve also chief-authored a bill that would use Legacy funds to fund the trail portion of the project, which would free up money to be used on other Highway 316 infrastructure. Considering this stretch is part of the Mississippi River Trail and the Great River Road, I do feel it would be eligible for Legacy dollars. These bills are in addition to a bill seeking transportation funding.

Other options are also in play to help with the Highway 316 funding difference, including grants from MnDOT’s Local Road Improvements Program (LRIP) as well as the Local Partnership Program (LPP). The City is planning to pursue both of these opportunities and I will also lend my support to these applications.

My gut tells me that Highway 316 is not going to be funded by just one bill redirecting resources from one sector of state government. The City of Hastings asked me to look for creative legislative funding mechanisms to help fill the funding gap, and that’s exactly what I’ve done by introducing three separate bills. Again, any money we can secure from any number of available statewide resources will result in lower costs to the City of Hastings.

HIGHWAY 61 LIGHTING

Due to a number of motorist accidents that have occurred along Highway 61 over the years, I am sponsoring legislation that would provide lighting on both sides of the four-lane road.

Highway 61 has a number of unrestricted local access intersections where oncoming traffic may not see motorists at night until it’s too late. Full lighting would be a needed safety improvement for drivers traveling in all directions.

Specifically, the bill would install full lighting along Highway 61 from the Highway 10 corridor near Hastings to County Highway 22, or 70th Street, in St. Paul Park. Currently, lighting along this stretch only exists at interchanges at 80th Street, Jamaica Avenue South, and County Road 19 (Innovation Road South).

From Innovation Road to Minnesota Highway 95, there is no lighting at all, but several areas where drivers must cross one portion of Highway 61 and wait in a median before either crossing to the other side or turning onto the roadway. At night or in winter conditions, and with speed limits in the area ranging between 60 and 65 miles per hour, the lack of lighting has created very treacherous situations.

Traffic is increasing here which means these areas along Highway 61 are only going to get more dangerous. This measure is a top priority for Mayor Myron Bailey and the City of Cottage Grove, and I understand why. There’s little doubt that new lighting will cut down on the number of accidents on this road, and it is important for the safety of local drivers.

CAPITAL INVESTMENT NEWS

In other news, our House Capital Investment Committee heard several law enforcement and first responder related bonding requests this week. I’m proud to have chief authored the HERO Center in Cottage Grove and co-authored the Dakota County SMART Center in last year’s bonding bill. The HERO Center construction is well underway with an expected fall 2019 opening. I’m glad we secured funding for both of our centers last year so we are not in competition with so many similar training centers now. In fact, the HERO Center was referenced in at least two of the proposals. Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?

Speaking of capital investment, we also approved a bonding bill this week that was signed into law by Governor Walz. This included $15 million in funding for Metro Area parks, which ironically enough was one topic of conversation at a bipartisan Metro Area park meeting I co-hosted this week. More than $100 million in statewide projects were included in appropriation bonds through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Those funds were held up in a court case, putting a hold on these much needed projects. This bill authorizes the use of General Obligation bonds instead, and eliminates the need for a court decision.

I also spent time working across the aisle on a bill that would help pay bus drivers and other hourly employees for days lost due to weather. I expect that we will have a bipartisan bill introduced early next week.

THIS WEEK’S VISITORS…

Physician Assistants Dominique Rabaey of Hastings and Kelsey McFarlane of Afton were in with the Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants with concerns for access to care, especially in rural and underserved areas.

Members of the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association discussed several issues including fighting emerald ash borer and salt liability protection. Joby Nolan is with Precision Landscaping & Construction Inc. in Hastings.

Chris Mishkee from Hastings and Torrey Grey, members of United Steelworkers Local 662 were in to talk about right to work and other issues.

Dan Retka from Hastings visited to talk about an additional passenger train from St. Paul to Chicago.

Hastings resident Caitlin Ternes was in with the Minnesota School Social Workers Association to promote the social emotional and educational well-being of children and families.

These University of Minnesota students visited to advocate for a medical amnesty bill for victims of sexual assault. Levi O’Tool is a Hastings constituent.

In this week’s KDWA “In Depth” we talked about bill hearings, House Floor debates, I Love to Read Month and more. Click here for a listen.

Finally, click here for a Northfield newspaper article about my bill to put more teeth into the law that bans dumping a kid’s lunch in the garbage because of a negative lunch account balance.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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