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Roads, bridges and jobs in the Northeast Metro
State Sen. Bev Scalze
Great news for the Northeast Metro! MNDOT recently notified us that the “Managed lanes” designated for I-694 between Rice Street and Lexington would now be scheduled for construction as extra lanes without restriction.
Governor Dayton and MNDOT Commissioner had previously designated that stretch of roadway to receive up to $42 million as a “Corridor of Commerce” with an extra shoulder lane usable only at congested “rush hour” use. Since we have been working on this corridor for quite some time, we continued to work toward a third lane usable at all times. Along this two mile segment of I-694 there are over 35,000 jobs. This corridor is home to major employers such as Land O’ Lakes, Cummins Power, Deluxe Corporation, PaR Robotic Systems, Boston Scientific and other great innovative companies that provide good-paying jobs in our area. These businesses deserve better access than a congested freeway that slows movement of their employees, visitors and customers.
Capital project investing is the focus of the upcoming legislative session which will begin on February 25th. Most of our “bonding bill” provides funds for state colleges and universities, other state buildings, but also funding for roads and bridges. Good paying jobs and the roads that help workers get to those jobs will be of prime importance for Minnesota’s economic future.
As Vice Chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, I will work very hard to get the ball rolling on the design of the Rice Street bridge replacement over 694. It’s a very unusual situation at that bridge which is the beginning point of the “Corridor of Commerce” area.
MNDOT has recently built 7 new bridges in the 694 mile to the east (Unweave the Weave), and 4 new bridges in the 694 construction to the west. Yet the Rice Street/694 bridge has only 2 lanes each direction with 4 lanes merging under it from the east. This results in a “pinch point” at this merge at high speeds within a half mile distance. This is one of the areas of highest congestion in the entire metro area as determined by MNDOT.
The 694/35E northeast freeway system enables vehicles from Wisconsin and Duluth to access the center of the metro area, but we should be paying attention to local businesses as well who need ease of access for future expansion.
Another bill of which I am the Chief Senate author is for infrastructure improvements at the site of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) in Arden Hills. When the Vikings were searching for a location for their new stadium, the lack of access roads at the TCAAP site was noted as a detriment to development. This is one of the reasons that Minneapolis became the site of the stadium. TCAAP is a 427 acre area that was the largest Superfund site in Minnesota. The pollution from 70 years of ammunition manufacturing is currently being cleaned to residential standards and will become home to 1700 houses, with jobs at businesses, offices and corporate headquarters. Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills have partnered to make this project a reality.
There are some who believe we should be using transit to get to jobs, but the northeast metro has been overlooked as our metro-area taxpayers have funded a first-class Hennepin County light-rail transit system. Given the lack of transit availability in the northeast metro, we need roads and bridges that enable expansion of our companies for a brighter economic future for Minnesota.