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Now's the time for infrastructure upgrades, House transportation chair says

(House Photography file photo)

The state is anticipating a budget surplus at the same time the federal government is planning on sending billions of dollars to the states through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

This might be the time for an historic investment in transportation infrastructure, said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls).

Chair of the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee, Hornstein said a main task of HF1683, the omnibus transportation finance and policy bill, is to provide guidance and money to match those federal funds. It also includes an additional $225 million for the state’s transportation needs.

Committee members received a walkthrough of the delete-all amendment on Tuesday. Public testimony is expected Wednesday and mark up of the bill Thursday.

Hornstein said the goal is to be inclusive of all parts of the state and all modes of transportation.

“We are concerned about repairing our crumbling infrastructure and addressing our urgent climate needs and doing it in a way that is equitable for all,” he said.

The Department of Transportation anticipates the state could receive about $700 million from the federal infrastructure bill through the 2024-25 biennium for road construction, and the state would need to provide a $92 million match.

The omnibus bill also includes General Fund money for electric buses, freight and passenger rail, pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as roads. It would send money specifically to small cities and townships.  

Trunk highway bonding provisions in the bill would provide $80 million for high-priority bridges and $69 million for MnDOT facilities.

Among the specific spending proposals from the General Fund is $740,000 this biennium and $3.7 million in the next for a second daily train from the Twin Cities to Chicago.

There is also $51 million in fiscal year 2023 and $34 million in the 2024-25 biennium to get the Northern Lights Express passenger train running between Minneapolis and Duluth.

Not included in the bill, however, is money for an extension of the Blue Line passenger rail.

Other funding proposals include:

  • $30 million for county state aid;
  • $12 million for active transportation;
  • $11.5 million for a multimodal package to match the federal Infrastructure Investments and Job Acts;
  • $10 million for municipal state aid;
  • $10 million for multimodal transportation small city assistance;
  • $10 million for Greater Minnesota transit;
  • $7 million to replace a state utility aircraft;
  • $5.5 million for airports;
  • $4 million for township roads;
  • $1.9 million for safe routes to school;
  • $1.3 million to improve pollinator habitat and living snow fence; and
  • $1 million appropriated to improve short-line freight rails.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

Some of the bill’s policy provisions are based recommendations from an independent review of driver’s license stations, aiming to help them better serve customers. These include requiring MnDOT to create a REAL ID pre-application process and sending some fees from mail-in driver’s licenses to deputy registrars. There would also be money appropriated for security cameras at exam stations and deputy registrar offices.

The bill would also:

  • establish a Road Usage Charge Task Force to examine ways to fund MnDOT as gas tax revenues decrease through better vehicle mileage and more electric cars on the road;
  • establish a Traffic Safety Advisory Council, building on the work of the Zero Death initiative;
  • allow electric charging stations at highway rest stops;
  • establish a highway for habitat program to encourage pollinators in highway ditches;
  • create a North Star state bikeway from St. Paul to the Canadian border;
  • ensure bus drivers receive proper training on safe entry and exit for passengers with mobility issues;
  • expand eligibility for veteran group special plates and eliminate a $100 fee for Gold Star personalized license plates;
  • change laws governing towed vehicles to help people access personal property left in their cars;
  • allow some race and ethnic information on driver’s license and identification cards; and
  • reallocate $1.5 million annually from state patrol citations to grade crossing safety account instead of the trunk highway fund.

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What’s in the bill?

The following are select bills incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus transportation bill:


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