Central Corridor could get $20 million in federal funds

The light-rail line may receive Congressional funding separate from the stimulus.

Although the Central Corridor light-rail line did not receive funding from the federal stimulus bill, Congress may be finding other cash to support the project. As part of a $410 billion leftover spending bill from last sessionâÄôs Congress, a $20 million earmark could go to the planned Central Corridor light-rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul. This funding is coming on top of the $787 billion stimulus bill that President Obama signed Feb. 17. The light-rail project did not receive funding from the stimulus bill because itâÄôs not a shovel-ready project. The federal government will fund half of the $915 million light-rail project if a full funding grant agreement is reached, Steve Dornfeld, public affairs director for the Metropolitan Council, said. For now, state and local agencies have been gathering most of the costs of the Central Corridor project. âÄúWe have secured all but $8 million of our half of the $915 million from local and state agencies,âÄù Dornfield said. âÄúFederal dollars have lagged in the process, but ultimately we expect Congress to appropriate money every year until we get to their 50 percent.âÄù The funding, which passed easily in the House, is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate on Thursday. If approved, it would bring the total federal spending on the project up to $37.5 million, Dornfeld said. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who helped secure the funding on the Appropriations Committee, said she has been working to fund the Central Corridor for the eight years she has served in Congress. âÄúIf the Twin Cities is going to compete nationally, let alone internationally, we need a strong transportation system,âÄù she said. McCollum also said she thinks there is a good chance the Twin Cities could get a fast-train between Minneapolis and Chicago. The proposed fast-train has been identified by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Obama administration as a top candidate for part of the $8 billion in the federal stimulus funding for high-speed rail.

Greater Minnesota transportation projects

Gov. Tim Pawlenty jetted around the state Wednesday to unveil a list of 60 greater Minnesota transportation projects worth an estimated $180 million covered by the national stimulus bill. Pawlenty and MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel made stops in Rochester, Mankato, Cambridge and Duluth to announce major projects in the areas, and finished their run at the State Capitol in St. Paul. The most expensive project will rehabilitate State Highway 53 north of Duluth at a total cost of $18 million. Highway projects for the metro area wonâÄôt be announced until March, but one of the pricier proposals would put $86 million toward widening part of State Highway 610 in the north Minneapolis suburbs to make it a four-lane freeway. Pawlenty said metro area infrastructure projects will also receive about $180 million in funding from the federal stimulus bill. MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said if these larger projects donâÄôt make it to construction, more small projects will be taken on. âÄúThe benefit will be that we will be repairing some roadways we wouldnâÄôt have been able to get to otherwise,âÄù he said. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that greater Minnesota transportation projects will create approximately 5,000 jobs, with MnDOT estimates reaching 12,000 jobs created statewide. âÄúWe are working hard to make sure we meet the goal of the [stimulus] bill, which is to create jobs,âÄù Gutknecht said, âÄúand we are going to get a side benefit, which is our infrastructure is going to improve.âÄù