ST. PAUL (AP) -- A near-complete transportation package pumps more than $500 million in road and bridge construction and keeps funding for light-rail transit intact.
The plan, a product of weekend negotiations by key legislators, still must be adopted by a transportation conference committee before it is put before all 201 lawmakers. But the agreement is unlikely to see major changes before those votes.
Senate Transportation Finance Chairman Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, described the proposal Saturday after emerging from talks with House Transportation Finance Chairwoman Carol Molnau, R-Chaska.
The package includes funding for transportation projects over the next three years.
''This would be the most aggressive highway and bridge construction package in the last 20 years,'' Johnson said.
By boosting the state Transportation Department's construction budget by about 30 percent a year, lawmakers hope to jump-start a number of major road and bridge projects that are ready to go as soon as the state can pay for them.
Johnson said negotiators have agreed to split the money as follows:
-- $177 million to eliminate bottlenecks on Twin Cities area freeways. That includes money to complete a three-lane Interstate 494-694 beltway around the two cities.
-- $177 million to improve highway corridors connecting outstate regional trade centers.
-- $100 million in highway bonds that the Transportation Department would use to finance other road and bridge projects.
-- $40 million to repair and replace local bridges.
-- $30 million for city streets and county roads.
More important to Gov. Jesse Ventura, there is no longer language that attacked the light rail line he desperately wants.
A House-passed transportation bill would have repealed more than $80 million in unspent state appropriations for the light-rail system, which would have stopped it dead in its tracks.
But the Senate strongly supports the Hiawatha line, from downtown through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to the Mall of America.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.