State invests $32M in highway projects

The projects are intended to better infrastructure and create more jobs.

Kristina Busch

To help repair some of Minnesota’s crumbling roadways and bridges, several state transportation departments doled out $32 million in grants last month for highway projects.
The 11 projects are geared toward economic development and job creation. All are funded through the Transportation Economic Development Program and approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
“[The program] helps provide funding for projects that will help improve the economy,” said Kevin Gutknecht, MnDOT’s communications director. “For example, providing better access to roadways for businesses, or creating passing and turn lanes in places where truck traffic goes in and out a lot.”
The goal of the program is to create safer, more effective infrastructure while improving Minnesota’s economic status by creating jobs, he said. 
“This program has been going on since 2010,” Gutknecht said. “We’ve done 40 projects, and the TED program has put $107 million in those projects and leveraged about $339.6 million in private and public sector investment.” 
Of the projects, about half are located in the Twin Cities. Planned projects include interchange construction, lane expansions, roundabout additions and improvements to intersections. 
In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers found that 11 percent of the state’s major roads are in poor condition.
Because of Minnesota’s snow and frost cycle, roads need to be repaired more often, said Minnesota Traffic Observatory Director John Hourdos.
“We are generating pot holes much more rapidly than anyone,” he said. 
Hourdos said a commuter lane between Minneapolis and St. Paul that will result in the reconstruction of the Highway 280 interchange is also planned, but that project is still in the initial stages. 
Originally, 22 state highway proposals were sent to MnDOT and DEED for grant consideration. 
Gutknecht said the grant selection process is competitive.
“There is set criteria that a committee uses to go through those projects to determine if they should get funding,” he said. 
He said they consider how much planning has been completed for the projects and how much current funding the projects already have.
Since 2011, MnDOT and DEED, in collaboration with TED, have awarded almost $77 million in grants for transportation improvements in 28 communities.