By Jennifer Lewerenz

(KNSI) — Benton County has secured $5 million in funding from Congress for the County State Aid Highway 29 extension.

County officials say the project is still in the design phase but will hopefully be the start of a ring road around the St. Cloud metro area. They also say it opens up 29 for potential new housing and commercial development on the east side of Sauk Rapids and creates a new route to the St. Cloud Regional Airport.

Officials hope the route aleviates traffic congestion by Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, improving student safety.

The federal appropriation funding also helps to connect Mayhew Lake Road with Golden Spike Road.

Board Chair Jared Gapinski said in a press release they are “very grateful for the work of Senator [Amy] Klobuchar, Senator [Tina] Smith and Congressman [Tom] Emmer to secure this funding for our County and the St. Cloud region. It’s a huge boost.”

Another local project will bring changes to Interstate 94 and Highway 24 in Clearwater. That is a multi-agency effort to improve safety and efficiency at the intersection. The total cost is $26 million. Congress has granted $3 million to help. In a statement from Mayor Andrea Lawrence, she said, “The City of Clearwater has been working together with MnDOT to create a safer, multi-use traffic corridor through the city and over Interstate 94 for several years. The $3 million earmarked from the appropriations bill will help make travel through our community safer. It will also make the journey both quicker and less dangerous for our numerous visitors who use Clearwater as the gateway to the north.”

Five million more dollars in grant funding is also on the way to help with the project.

The City of Waite Park secured funding for a J-Turn on Highway 23 and Bel Clare Drive. Sartell received money for the 15th Street North Regional Corridor Expansion Project.