After several years of gridlock, the Legislature and Governor came to an agreement this year on a transportation bill that injects much needed funding into our state’s transportation network. The bottom line for Highway 14: there is funding to keep working on the four-lane expansion from Rochester to New Ulm, but not enough to finish all of the remaining two-lane segments.
Transportation Bill Relies Heavily on Borrowing
The final bill does not raise new revenues for transportation. Instead, it utilizes the state’s budget surplus by shifting $300 million in auto-related sales tax revenues from the general fund towards the road and bridge construction funding. The bill also calls for $940 million in borrowing over four years — $640 million for general state road construction and $300 million for the Corridors of Commerce program. Corridors of Commerce will also receive $25 million annually in cash which is necessary to purchase right of way and conduct project engineering. The Capital Investment bill, which was also passed, provides an additional $255 million from General Obligation bonding over the next two years for local roads and bridges.
Highway 14 – Not Quite on the Road to Completion
Corridors of Commerce has been the main source of funding for the expansions of Highway 14 that have taken place over the past few years and it’s expected that a significant amount of the $300+ million dollars passed this year will go towards future Highway 14 expansions. Corridors of Commerce funds are divided with half going to metro projects and the other half to Greater Minnesota projects. It’s estimated that completing the remaining two 12-mile segments of two-lane highway between Rochester to New Ulm will cost about $300 million dollars so the $150 million that Greater Minnesota projects will receive from the transportation bill falls well short of that goal. Further Corridors of Commerce dollars will be needed in future legislative sessions to put Highway 14 on the path to completion.