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Alternative transportation financing

Published (4/29/2011)
By Mike Cook
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The Department of Transportation might be able to look at alternative ways to finance project construction.

Sponsored by Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan), HF1378 would allow MnDOT to enter into an agreement with a governmental or private entity to finance or invest in a transportation project. This would be a one-time pilot project.

“As we look at reinventing government, looking at doing things in different ways and providing flexibility … this legislation matches that philosophy albeit in a very, very tightly controlled realm,” Buesgens said.

The bill was approved April 18 by the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee and sent to the House floor. A companion, SF1078, sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Kruse (R-Brooklyn Park), awaits action by the Senate Transportation Committee.

“Let’s say on Highway 199 you have a township that is looking at putting an expanded crossing across that highway and they’ve been working with MnDOT, and MnDOT says, ‘You know that is on our 2018 project list,’” Buesgens said. “The township says, ‘We’ve got the money right now and we’d like to work with you and maybe front-end these funds and come up with a contractual arrangement so that when MnDOT indeed does have the money they’ll pay us back but we can get this work done in an expedited fashion.’”

Scott Peterson, MnDOT government affairs director, said the department views the bill as an opportunity to bring in more resources to finance more transportation improvements.

“The primary benefit of this authority would be to act more quickly, be more responsive to economic development activities that may arise across the state where an associated transportation investment is necessary to take advantage of those opportunities,” he said.

Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) expressed concern that projects higher on the department’s to-do list may be displaced by projects completed via this alternative funding route.

Peterson said that would not be the case.

“We would repay the funds that were provided for the project when that project’s originally scheduled construction date appears in our program,” he said.

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