$305B transportation bill to bring highways, jobs benefits to Minnesota

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The landmark $305 billion national transportation bill signed off this week by President Obama after bipartisan support is set to benefit Minnesota.

The President signed into law the highways bill on Thursday, providing five years of cash to improve the country's roads, bridges, and mass-transit systems funded partly by the gas tax (which won't go up), The Hill reports.

In a statement to media, Minnesota's Eighth District Congressman Rick Nolan said the bill will bring $3.4 billion to Minnesota for highways projects alone.

How that money will be used is not known at this stage, Nolan explains that the bill has more immediate benefits for Minnesota, particularly in the northeast of the state.

The law includes a provision to lift the ban on logging trucks using a 24-mile stretch of Interstate-35 between Duluth and Scanlon, bringing an end to years of heavy-goods vehicles using the narrow, often snow-covered Superior Street

Also included in the bill is a measure under the "Buy America" program that will see the domestic content of buses and rail cars increased from 60 percent to 70 percent, a measure that Nolan believes could benefit his constituents in the Iron Range.

"After years of kicking the can down the road, we have a transportation bill that addresses the fact that our nation’s infrastructure that has literally been crumbling before our very eyes," Nolan said.

"Now federal, state and local planners will have long-term stability along with the resources they need to repair our highways and bridges, keep trains on the tracks, help ensure the safety of our pipelines – and by doing so, create tens of thousands of badly needed jobs here in Minnesota and across the nation," he added.

Klobuchar pleased at boost for small businesses

Also commenting on the bill was Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was pleased that the bill included the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing to American businesses to export goods and materials when private lenders won't.

Klobuchar says the bank has "supported $2 billion in exports in Minnesota alone," and helped 170 businesses over the last five years, the majority of which were small firms.

“Small businesses in Minnesota and across the country rely on the Export-Import Bank to level the playing field with foreign competitors to ensure that American companies can access new markets and compete in the global economy," she said.

"I fought hard for this reauthorization and it’s a major victory for our Minnesota small businesses and local communities."

The New York Times reports that the re-authorization of the bank, which has existed since 1934, had been opposed from the more conservative Republicans in Congress, who had criticized it as a "form of corporate welfare and crony capitalism."

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