Highway projects top county’s legislative wish list

The Anoka County Board has approved its wish list for the 2014 session of the Minnesota Legislature.

Bonding for two major highway projects rank among the top priorities in the legislative platform which was recommended to the board by its Intergovernmental and Community Relations Committee.

While board members had no comment when approving the platform Dec. 17, the proposals had received plenty of discussion when moving through the various committees of jurisdiction and by the Intergovernmental and Community Relations Committee.

The platform was split into two categories – the first containing eight issues where the county would actively lobby for its position and the second with 10 issues where it would support the county’s position with others.

The legislative session begins Feb. 25, 2014 and will be a state bonding year, according to Kathy Tingelstad, county government relations director.

The bonding bill could range from $800 million to over $1 billion, Tingelstad said.

Anoka County hopes to capture some of those bonding dollars for two highway projects – Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard in Ramsey and expanding Highway 10 from four to six lanes from Hanson Boulevard in Coon Rapids to Seventh Avenue in Anoka.

Final design work on the Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard interchange project, described by the county as a “dangerous intersection,” is under way and local, state and federal dollars have been committed to the estimated $35 million project, but there is a funding gap of up to $17 million, according to Tingelstad.

That’s the amount the county is requesting, just as it did a year ago when only a small bonding bill was approved to deal with State Capitol renovation needs, Tingelstad said.

But hearings on the county request did take place in both the House and Senate during the 2013 session, she said.

State funding for the expansion of Highway 10 from four to six lanes from Hanson to Seventh Avenue is not a new proposal, according to Tingelstad.

Indeed, when she was a member of the Minnesota House a few years ago, she carried a bill for this project, Tingelstad said.

The county platform is seeking state trunk highway funds bonding of up to $40 million for the project.

“A key point is that Hanson Boulevard leads to Coon Rapids High School and Seventh Avenue leads to Anoka High School,” Tingelstad said.

Back in 2002, an interregional corridor study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation recommended this section of Highway 10 be expanded from four to six lanes, she said.

Information presented to the county board by Tingelstad stated that traffic volumes in this area are about 79,000 a day, which is already near the threshold capacity for a four-lane freeway and leads to backed-up traffic conditions, while future demands will exceed 110,000 vehicles a day.

Another platform issue on which the county will actively lobby is continuing the fiscal disparities policy, through which the county and most cities in the county are beneficiaries.

The county platform opposes any tampering with the current policy, specifically diverting funds for individual projects, unless it is part of overall state tax reform.

The county will also actively lobby for legislative action to exempt north metro communities from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area rulemaking process which covers an area from Dayton and Hastings.

For a second time since 2009 – the first attempt was aborted – the DNR began the rulemaking project this year based on legislative action and it is expected to continue through 2014.

According to Tingelstad, there are county parks and highways within the rulemaking area and if the proposed rules are implemented, “there would be additional costs and staff time involved in future projects.”

“One important fact to note is that there are literally hundreds-more individual residential property owners north of I-694 compared with the area south of this point,” Tingelstad said.

There is legislative and statutory authority that could exempt north metro communities from the rules and there are local legislators willing to chief author this legislation, she said.

“This would simplify future planning and development along that stretch of the Mississippi River and continue the governance via local control,” Tingelstad said.

In the supporting with other category there are two platforms dealing with funding for county parks and trails construction.

One calls for full funding of the 2014 metro regional parks’ capital improvement program of $11 million with state bonds, which would be matched by $7.33 million in Metropolitan Council bonds.

If approved, this would fund two projects in Anoka County to the tune of $1.9 million.

• Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, $615,000 for the reconstruction of the boat launch parking lot and access road, storm water conveyance and treatment, sidewalk and trail reconstruction, entrance sign replacement, lighting, landscaping/natural resource restoration and signage and rehabilitation and redevelopment of the visitor center building.

• Riverfront Regional Park in Fridley, $1.28 million for the reconstruction of the southern half of roadways and parking lots, storm water conveyance and treatment, new trail and connector trail construction, retaining wall replacement, lighting, landscaping and signage, replacement of park entrance sign and entrance modifications, building rehabilitation and development of a disc golf course.

In addition, the county is seeking legislative approval of Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage recommended allocation of $102 million for statewide habitat projects, which would fund three Anoka County projects totaling $553,000

• $276,364 for a 120-acre prairie and oak savanna restoration at Mississippi West Regional Park in Ramsey.

• $103,636 for a 45-acre prairie and oak savanna restoration at Rum River Central Regional Park in Oak Grove.

• $173,000 for 375 feet of riverbank stabilization at the Cedar Creek Conservation Area in Oak Grove.

The county platform also includes support for state bonding for the local road improvement program, for which the county might be eligible for some $500,000, local bridge rehabilitation and the local roads wetlands replacement program.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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