This week I spent 3 days traveling with the House Capital Investment (Bonding) Committee, of which I am a member. In preparation for next session (Feb-2018) the committee along with a member of the governor’s staff are looking at bonding requests from across the state. This week we visited northwest Minnesota.
Day one took us from St. Paul through St. Cloud, Glenwood, Fergus Falls and we overnighted in Moorhead. We looked at proposals at the Saint Cloud National Guard Armory, St. Cloud Technical College, a rail grade separation project at Glenwood, a City of Fergus Falls project, another rail separation project in Moorhead and finished the day at Moorhead State University.
We deal with major building renovations at our state colleges through bonding. These tend to be one-time expenses, such as replacing aging roofs, heating systems, repurposing facilities and occasionally replacing aging campus buildings.
Grade crossings are also becoming a major issue with the increased crude oil train traffic. In some cases emergency vehicles have to reroute an extra 15-20 miles when trains pass through. The wait times at the crossings can be as long as 15 to 30 minutes. That puts ambulance, fire and police response at a huge disadvantage.
Day two we looked at Red River of North flood hazard mitigation projects around Moorhead (Halstead) and then in East Grand Forks. We also visited the Northland Technical College at East Grand Forks, the University of Minnesota Crookston Campus and the North Country Food Bank facility looking at building renovations. At Thief River Falls we looked at Northland’s Aviation technical training facility and a bridge project. Then it was onto Bemidji where we overnighted after looking at several Bemidji State projects.
Day three took us to Itasca State Park, looking at more building renovation projects, followed by Central Lakes College in Brainerd. We had a box lunch on the bus en route to Camp Ripley for more project reviews. Next it was Blaine and the National Sports Center and we finished the evening looking at Century College in St. Paul.
This was the first of 5 trips our committee will make across the state over the next month and a half. Typically we receive several billion dollars in requests—these trips help us see these projects up-close and prioritize them accordingly as we look forward to next session.