Days after U.S. Highway 14 was snubbed by the state's Corridors of Commerce program, the Minnesota Senate is giving it some attention.
Senate Republicans are proposing $174.6 million to fund a portion of the Highway 14 projects through trunk highway bonds. The proposed borrowing is in addition to $825 million in general obligation bonds proposed in the Senate.
"We've talked about it in caucus all year," Sen. Dave Senjem said of the proposed funding for road work between Dodge Center and Owatonna.
The Rochester Republican, who is chairman of the Senate's Capital Investment Committee, said the Minnesota Department of Transportation's decision to fund other projects spurred the decision to designate funding in the proposed bonding bill, which is expected to have a committee hearing today and could reach the Senate floor by Wednesday.
While the House's bill matches the $825 million amount, it doesn't earmark funds for Highway 14, Senjem said he feels a compromise is attainable.
"We all want transportation," he said.
In addition to including $120 million for roads and transportation in their bonding proposal, House lawmakers are proposing funds for roadway renovations in a transportation bill.
Shane Zahrt, a lobbyist for the Highway 14 Partnership, said the group is pleased to see lawmakers take steps to address concerns raised last week after the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced $417 million in funding for a total of four projects, which are within 40 miles of downtown Minneapolis.
"There was a very strong reaction to last week's Corridors of Commerce awards," he said.
At the time Karen Foreman, president of the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership and a member of the Mankato City Council, called for legislative help to find more funding.
"Residents can help in our efforts by contacting their legislators and urging them to support more funding for Corridors of Commerce," she said. "It will take a region-wide effort with help from legislators, business owners, city leaders and the public to finally complete Highway 14."
Sen. Carla Nelson was among lawmakers responding by seeking to use trunk highway bonds to help widen and reconstruct portions of Highway 14. The Rochester Republican, who is running for Congress, is a member of the Senate's Capital Investment Committee.
On Wednesday, Senjem said he believes the highway effort is important and noted the overall bonding proposal provides a geographical and ideological balance.
"I feel really good about this one," he said.