Construction, Minnesota's other season, kicks offby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota's summer road construction season, state officials say, will include work on 157 projects.
St. Paul, Minn. — At a press conference at a Minnesota Department of Transportation facility in Roseville, MnDOT officials said the work is valued at $1.5 billion in federal, state and local funds.
Some of the projects, such as the $238 million expansion of Highway 212 in the southwestern Twin Cities suburbs, have been underway for two years.
A new project, the $288 million rebuilding of the Crosstown interchange in south Minneapolis, begins in June and will last for nearly four years. State officials found money for the Crosstown project by diverting funds from and delaying the rebuilding of a bottleneck in the northern Twin Cities suburbs.
Transportation Commissioner and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau says part of Gov. Pawlenty's transportation funding proposal before lawmakers this session includes shifting money for roads and bridges.
"The governor has ... asked for $100 million from the general fund just to maintain the projects that we're doing right now, and keeping everything online that we have proposed happening," Molnau says.
Gov. Pawlenty also proposes borrowing $1.7 billion over 10 years to help finance state road and bridge building.
Democrats and some Republicans have proposed increasing the state's gasoline tax by as much as 10 cents a gallon to supplement lagging transportation revenues. Gov. Pawlenty has said he'll veto any transportation bill which includes a tax increase.
Another new Twin Cities transportation project starting this summer is the rebuilding of a section of Highway 36 in North St. Paul. A section of the highway will be closed for several months during construction.
Larger projects in outstate Minnesota include replacing the Highway 169 bridge in Le Sueur, expanding Highway 10 from two to four lanes in Staples and rebuilding Highway 68 in downtown Marshall.
Lt. Gov. Molnau says some projects, including expanding Highway 53 in northeastern Minnesota to four lanes, are delayed. Molnau says state gas tax and other revenues which finance road building are coming in short of projections.
"The revenues coming in were below forecast so we can't meet that cash flow. The second reason is we have projects that the materials, the costs of road construction, has far exceeded our expectation," she says.
Molnau says the cost of asphalt the past two years has increased more than 50 percent.
State officials say all the delay and inconvenience caused by summer road construction does have a payoff. MnDOT engineer Sue Mulvihill says the number of miles of congested Twin Cities roadway is declining.
"From our metropolitan freeway system congestion report, it shows that we've reduced from 293 miles of congested roadway in 2003 to 267 miles of congested roadway in 2006. We are making strides against congestion," she says.