By Briana Bierschbach
Minnesota will see $60 million flow into the state for bridge projects this year from the new federal infrastructure law, the first batch of funding in what state leaders are calling a "historic" investment in the nation's transportation systems.
The funding is part of $302 million overall projected for Minnesota's bridges over the next five years as part of the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package.
"No state knows better than Minnesota how important is to have safe and reliable bridges," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Friday in a news conference. "The cracks in the broken transportation system became tragically clear on Aug. 1, 2007, when the [Interstate] 35W bridge collapsed in the Mississippi River, taking the lives of 13 and injuring many more."
The U.S. Department of Transportation said Friday that the money will help improve 615 Minnesota bridges in poor condition and about 5,020 in fair condition. Nationwide, the aid package is expected to help address about 15,000 bridges in need of repair.
Minnesota Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the funding will have the biggest impact starting in the 2023 construction season, but the $60 million will help to plan for a number of projects starting this year.
She said she anticipates the funding will go toward projects such as the I-494 bridge over the Minnesota River, the Hwy. 61 bridge over the Pigeon River on the border with Ontario, four I-94 bridges in Douglas County and the Dunwoody Boulevard bridge in Minneapolis.
Although infrastructure grants typically require a 20% local match, the federal government said Friday the funds can be used for 100% of the cost of repairing or rehabilitating a bridge in a city or county if the project isn't already part of the federal highway funding system.
"What this means for Minnesotans is that bridge you drive over every day to go to work or to take your kids to school is going to be safe, it's going to be smoother, it's going to be more efficient," said Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. "Those bridges are also going to be more resilient to the big storms and floods that we are seeing so much more of today because of climate change."
Overall, the state expects to receive $4.5 billion for highways, bridges, transit, water infrastructure and other projects over five years from the federal aid package.
Major highway or bridge projects at the state level still will require a 20% match, a requirement that is expected to be part of the debate over construction spending when the 2022 Legislature convenes Jan. 31.