The Minnesota Senate unveiled its version of the bonding bill for public works projects across the state Wednesday, and included in it was $174 million to upgrade and widen Highway 14 between Owatonna and Dodge Center.
North Mankato State Senator Nick Frentz believes the odds that it will make it into the final bill are slim because, “It’s not in the House bill and it’s a transportation earmark, which some people don’t like. It remains to be seen whether it will make it across the finish line – the bill itself as well as that part of it.”
Frentz said it was included in the bill after many Greater Minnesota lawmakers were displeased with the projects chosen by the Minnesota Department of Transportation under the 2018 “Corridors of Commerce” funding – and the fact that the two outstate projects chosen were within 40 miles of Minneapolis. “That frustrated a lot of us who are farther away from the metropolitan area, and Highway 14 was a very highly scored project when you exclude those that are within 50-60 miles of the metro,” he explained, “So I think this was a response to that.”
Frentz will advocate for a change in the way MnDOT scores Corridors of Commerce projects moving forward, in the interest of geographical fairness, and said, “We want all parts of the state to participate equally in transportation funding. We also need to fix the transportation funding shortfalls. Both political parties agree it takes $600 million a year for ten years to meet our needs and to catch up on stuff we’re behind on.”
How does Senator Frentz suggest lawmakers fully fund transportation? “Two ways. First of all, we could constitutionally dedicate more revenue. I would also advocate for a ten cent a gallon gas tax increase, which many other states around the country have already done,” he stated.
Frentz added that every part of the state should have a shot at transportation funding, and not just the Twin Cities metro.