February 9, 2018 at 2:37 p.m.

Hwy. 8 in spotlight, state bond funding sought

Hwy. 8 in spotlight, state bond funding sought
Hwy. 8 in spotlight, state bond funding sought

The MN Senate Capital Investment Committee, charg-ed with putting together a legislative bonding package,  sent some of its members on a Highway 8 bus tour last week, ending up at Frankie’s Bait & Marine in Chisago City, where local officials awaited.  

There is an effort underway to jumpstart the plan making the  Hwy. 8 corridor from Forest Lake to Karmel in Chisago City four lanes.

The county commissioners, spurred by county engineer Joe Triplett and administrator Bruce Messelt, have thrown full support into the highway project by promising to match a $7.5 million ask as part of the bonding package.  Governor Mark Dayton laid out his bonding bill preferences at $1.5 billion and there was no mention of Hwy. 8.  The senate develops what it would like to bond for and then the House contributes its version.

The Senate Capital Investment Committee has divided up and is touring dozens of sites where bonding proceeds are proposed to be used. They had visited 30 places in three days-- as of the Chisago City stop February 1.

George McMahon, County Board Chair, said the county wants to “manage” the projects, do engineering and work with MnDOT closely.  

McMahon said the impetus behind this local effort was the interchange improvements scheduled for starting near Forest Lake,  in 2018, and that Chisago County’s seven mile four-lane expansion that feeds into that project area is ripe for getting done.

Wyoming Mayor Lisa Iverson added that all the mayors met recently and to best provide for the upcoming growth in housing and commercial needs in Chisago County this highway segment was identified as a key part of the economic development puzzle.

Senator David Senjem, Capital Investment committee chair, said the committee gets three to four times the requests as funding (for the state’s bonding projects) and questioned city political support for the four lanes and other localized issues.
County Engineer Joe Triplett said the county is prepared to expedite the use of the bond proceeds. If the state wants a project that’s already got momentum, this is it.  The county is poised to step up and help, there has been work done on this segment, although data will need refreshing.  

“We are not starting from zero,” Triplett stated.

 The Local Option Sales Tax and Wheelage Tax  funding streams are already available and wheelage (at $10 per vehicle now which you pay when you register vehicles) has the possibility to go to $20, to aid in matching this first phase of state funding being sought.

The four lane effort would eventually entail intersection improvements, access roads and reduced access points, as well as expanding the highway’s capacity.  In total it could run $60 million, but the first phase the county wants to cost-share on is $15 million.

Lakeside School Principal Sara Johnson told the senate committee members the school district will soon build a new elementary school (off Highway 8 north on Karmel Avenue) for a planned student population of 800 children.  The traffic at #8 and Karmel will need an enhanced intersection, the safety of the students transported by bus on Hwy 8 everyday also calls for projects to be done.

Most of the local officials stressed getting started on planning and engineer now-- to adequately meet growth needs that everybody knows are coming.

Lindstrom City Administrator John Olinger said the highway’s shortcomings are limiting economic development.  Area office-holders are under pressure to address community issues like truck traffic, uncontrolled intersection dangers, etc.

Two of this area’s House members advocated for their senate colleagues to seriously consider bond-funding.

Representatives Anne Neu and Bob Dettmer said the state’s infrastructure must be maintained.  When it comes to prioritizing the bonding (borrowing)  needs, the existing systems should come first.  Neu added that Chisago County only has Hwy. 8 and I-35 to meet transport and economic development demands and in order to improve the county’s commercial/industrial tax base these have to be taken care of.


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