May 26, 2023 at 12:57 p.m.
County could see millions from state
Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplettt told the County Board May 17, he “couldn’t be more disappointed” in what had transpired thus far in road and bridge funding coming out of St. Paul. His tone has changed since, with last minute cash and bonding transportation measures eeking their way through the final hours of the legislative session.
For example, LRIP or Local Road Improvement Program aid and state bridge money set aside as of Triplett’s County Board presentation, was insufficient. There was talk about $20 million and the engineer reported Chisago County can use $12 million alone.
Triplett’s assessment about a week ago was, “Road and bridge really got shorted.”
This week, at session’s end, he told the Press he was hoping the Governor would sign the funding actions. Highway 8 now stands to receive $42 million in the straight-up transportation bill and there’s $8 million additional in the bonding bill earmarked for the county.
The DFL-controlled House had approved a bonding bill for projects in March, of $1.9 billion. (Local legislators Neu Brindley and Johnson opposed.) Senate GOP members successfully rejected that bill, arguing for tax cuts first and to use the “surplus’ estimated for the state budget.
DFL leaders then opted for a cash plan, which doesn’t require the super majority support of taking out bonds (debt.) Because metro area lawmakers have been supportive of legislative packages, the transportation cash bill was oriented toward DFL represented metro projects. Meanwhile, the Republican leadership complained the funding is “unbalanced” geographically.
Reports are the bonding and cash packages are well distributed around the state now. (Spreadsheets and details were still being compiled when the Press went to print.)
Triplett explained that when the county can’t get financial support from state coffers, then local funds have to be re-assigned, projects delayed and that’s what Triplett and the County Board are doing right now.
Action expected on adopting the county’s Transportation Improvement Plan or TIP, was tabled last week by the County Board for more consideration.
The TIP “memorializes” what the county is going to do in 2023 and plans to do out to 2028.
There was consensus and discussion for eliminating the easterly extension of County Road 17 from the TIP. Commissioners Marlys Dunne, Jim Swenson and Rick Greene all stated there are more pressing needs on which to spend dollars the county does have, rather than helping to pay for the #17 extension.
Commissioner Greene commented that the recent severe winter left roads needing repair. He added that the county TIP has traditionally been “fluid.”
Dunne added that she questioned the extension proposal all along and has not been a big fan. It would be helpful for her to assess the status of long suffering roads and bridges to have the Board take a road tour.
Commissioner Swenson said he got public feedback against doing the #17 extension, and agreed the legislature should have found consensus on funding, saying he was “damn mad” at state lawmakers.
Making matters worse is the problem with materials inflation for road projects.
For instance—Triplett said in 2020 the county saw an average bituminous cost of $58 per ton and this year it is $85 and “not sustainable.”
One of the reasons behind extending #17 was to create an outlet for the congestion impacting the freeway interchange and the Stacy-County Road 30 four-way intersection. But there are alternatives to connecting #17 to Lincoln Trail, Triplett explained. “I have options we can investigate further...this isn’t killing anything completely.”
Commenting has been disabled for this item.