As a member of the Minnesota House bonding committee, I have spent much of October traveling across Minnesota with fellow committee members in order to learn more about statewide construction projects that are seeking funding.
These tours are nearly complete, as we only have metro area stops remaining. On Oct. 22, I was pleased to host the committee in Hastings so lawmakers could learn more about two local bills that I’m carrying on behalf of the city: the city hall preservation project, and the Highway 316 renovation project.
I’ve been exploring multiple ways to fund Highway 316 since I reached an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in 2017 to leave speed limits alone and increase driver and pedestrian safety. MnDOT came up with a plan — after holding open house meetings for resident input — that city leaders also endorsed that would put roundabouts at Tuttle and Tiffany drives, as well as Spiral Boulevard, and construct a center median and paths for walkers and bicyclists.
With a $1.5 million funding gap for this Highway 316 project, I’ve been trying to find a creative way to ease the financial burden. The only portion of this project where capital investment dollars can be used is for the creation of bike and pedestrian paths, so I am seeking up to $1.5 million for this purpose and to get this project funding in place.
Upon entering Hastings, we pulled over so members could see firsthand the dangers associated with this stretch of roadway. After a welcome on the bus from Mayor Mary Fasbender, Hastings Public Works Director Nick Egger joined us to explain why the project is necessary and encourage legislative support. After sitting at Tuttle Drive for several minutes waiting to turn onto Highway 61, everyone on the bus understood the needs for improvements along this road.
From there we traveled to City Hall to look at the historic building that is in dire need of repair, and were joined by numerous city leaders, chamber members and others. Hastings City Planner Justin Fortney then gave a presentation regarding the numerous improvements that are needed throughout the building.
My legislation would authorize $2 million in bonding proceeds to assist with this construction project, contingent on the city providing a $2.6 million investment on its own or finding those funds from outside sources.
As we left, I heard from a number of committee members who called the Hastings visit “memorable.” While that doesn’t guarantee my two Hastings bills will be approved in the Capital Investment Committee next session, it can’t hurt.
I think it’s also a positive that both the Hastings City Hall and Highway 316 proposals were included in the House version of the capital investment bill last session before members had a chance to view the projects (that legislation did not become law).
It’s worth noting that the Senate and governor’s office are also conducting capital investment tours, and I’ll be interested to hear their thoughts if or when they make it to town. But for now, the House Capital Investment Committee has been fully briefed on these plans, and I will continue fighting for their inclusion in the House’s bonding bill that will be unveiled during the 2020 session.