As the Metro area continues to expand and more Minnesotans rely on daily travel for work, school, shopping and entertainment, the transit system needs to improve and expand with it. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) has reported that by 2030 the metro region is expected to be home to nearly one million more people than in 2000. This trend will continue to add stress to our transit system and we need to be prepared.
Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has made a large impact on transportation throughout the state. In 2010, several projects were completed thanks to the funding, such as the I-694 reconstruction between I-94 and 50th Street in Maplewood and Oakdale, I-94 resurfacing between Highway 280 and Western Avenue in St. Paul and the construction of a new flyover ramp from westbound I-94 to Highway 101 in Rogers.
Mn/DOT recently released their 2011 Metro District Legislative Briefing Book which details needed projects throughout the eight county metro district area. Three projects ready to begin in our area include:
· Replacing a lighting system on I-694 at 10th Street in Oakdale;
· Work on unbonded concrete overlay on I-694 from 40th Street to Highway 61; and
· Rebuilding a traffic signal at the Century College entrance in White Bear Lake.
· For more information on local projects, visit the Ramsey County website at http://www.co.ramsey.mn.us/pw/index.htm and the Washington County website at http://www.co.washington.mn.us/ (click on “roads and transit”).
Reconstruction of Rice Street from County Road B to County Road B-2 is also continuing to make progress. Replacement of the aging Rice Street Bridge and construction of a new interchange will increase safety and lessen congestion. The project is expected to be completed in November 2011.
Motorists will encounter overnight closures on westbound Highway 36 and both directions of Rice Street next Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17-19. The closures are needed as crews deliver and set beams for the new southbound Rice Street Bridge and the ramp bridges over Highway 36 just east and west of Rice Street in Roseville and Little Canada. Highway 36 and Rice Street will reopen to traffic at 5 a.m. Friday and at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information on this project visit: http://www.sehinc.com/online/rice36.
Another way to invest in our transit system is through a capital investment (bonding) bill. Governor Dayton already released his capital investment plan. In that plan, he has asked the Legislature to use his suggestions and add some of our own. Two bills I recently introduced for the capital investment bill are designed to improve two interchanges in our district.
The first bill will fund a grant to Ramsey County to complete the design of the interchange of I-694 and White Bear Avenue. The second will be used to complete the design of the interchange of I-694 and Rice Street as well as associated improvements to the through-lanes of I-694 and areas of Rice Street adjacent to the interchange in Ramsey County. Both proposals are getting bipartisan support.
With a Republican led majority in the Senate, these projects will rely on their willingness to invest in a Capital Investment Bill. As in the past, I will work with my colleagues and others to advance these needed improvements.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions as needed. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your house or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.