Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel says the Bren Road/Highway 169 project in Minnetonka can't continue during a shutdown, despite the city's argument that it is fully managing and inspecting the project.
Minnetonka City Manager John Gunyou had asked MnDOT to allow the project to continue, saying all state money going into the project had already been paid and that the city had taken full responsibility for the project.
Gunyou said delaying the project could cost taxpayers up to $3 million.
But in a letter, Sorel cited the signed agreement between MnDOT and the city, saying the state has the authority to stop a construction project within the state's right-of-way "at any time, with or without cause."
He said MnDOT won't be able to conduct oversight or authorize changes to the project. The state also won't be able to assure the federal government that construction activities on part of the National Highway System comply with federal requirements.
"MnDOT still has substantial authority and responsibility related to the construction of this project that it will be unable to exercise in the event of a shutdown," Sorel wrote.
Gunyou said in a written statement that the city is disappointed with the decision.
"We continue to believe there are no real financial, engineering or administrative reasons why this important project should not proceed, with or without a state shutdown," Gunyou said.
"We remain hopeful that the governor and legislature will reach an agreement to avert a shutdown, and will continue to evaluate our options on a day-by-day basis, with our primary focus on how best to minimize any unnecessary additional expense to our taxpayers," he said.
John Gunyou is a brilliant City Manager and a wonderful advocate for the City of Minnetonka. Unfortunately, he's wrong on this issue. So long as MnDOT has ultimate responsibility for this project, the work cannot proceed without MnDOT supervision. That's just the logical result of using a system we all agree to.