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St. Paul pushes bonding for deficient bridge

Janice Bitters//October 23, 2015

St. Paul pushes bonding for deficient bridge

Janice Bitters//October 23, 2015

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is asking state legislators to approve $48 million in bonding in the 2016 session to rebuild the Kellogg Boulevard-Third Street bridge — a key connector between St. Paul’s downtown and east side.

The bridge has been reduced from four lanes to three for more than a year after engineers warned that the bridge’s outer lanes couldn’t support current traffic.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates nearly 10,000 vehicle trips occur daily across the half-mile-long bridge that carries Kellogg Boulevard over the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and Interstate 94. Reconstructing the bridge was also among Coleman’s top bonding priorities last session.

Coleman released a statement last week, emphasizing the importance of rebuilding the more than 30-year-old bridge as the city prepares for additional development. In recent years, the city has seen the construction of the 14.5-mile Green Line Light Rail Transit route, which runs between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, a new St. Paul Saints baseball ballpark, hundreds of apartments in downtown and Lowertown, and stores and restaurants.

“The Kellogg Boulevard-Third Street bridge plays a crucial role in connecting the East Side with the vibrancy and growth in Lowertown and the downtown area – making it our number one bonding priority for yet another legislative session,” Coleman said in a statement.

The total rebuild is projected to cost $59 million, and the city is requesting $48 million from the state in the coming session. St. Paul also received $7 million in federal funds in May to help reconstruct the bridge.  The rest of the funding would come from state bridge bonding and city funds.

Coleman had hoped to gain approval for the rebuild in the 2015 legislative session, but legislators failed to come to an agreement about a transportation bill. The bridge project wasn’t advanced in the final “lights on” bill that largely maintained the status quo for transportation funding last session.

State legislators have said they are confident they can come to an agreement on transportation funding in the coming session, despite the condensed schedule they’ll face this time around and the 2016 elections. The coming legislative session runs between March 8 and May 23.

Across the state, more than 1,760 bridges have been identified as deficient or obsolete by the Minnesota Department of Transportation as of April 2015.

Coleman’s letter comes on the heels of the Bloomington City Council approving $84 million in requests to be submitted for Gov. Mark Dayton’s upcoming bonding bill.

Bloomington’s request focuses on three priorities, including an upgrade to the Mall of America transit station, a new on-ramp for westbound Interstate 494 where it meets East Bush Lake Road, and for the first phase of rebuilding the interchange at northbound I-35W and westbound I-494.

“In order to allow development, we need these improvements,” said Karl Keel, public works director at the city of Bloomington.

The state isn’t the only governing body in the transportation funding spotlight. On Monday Dayton and 18 other governors signed a letter from the Democratic Governors Association to majority and minority leaders in Congress, urging them to decide on long-term transportation funding this year. Current federal transportation funding is set to expire Oct. 29.

“States need long-term certainty in order to make these key investments in significant transportation projects,” the governors’ letter said. “That kind of certainty requires a robust and long-term federal commitment. Short-run, patchwork solutions by Congress will not do.”

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