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Facing 'constrained budget' MnDOT announces 20-year plan

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced their final 20-year State Highway Investment Plan on Monday.

MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle said, "This plan is the result of extensive collaboration among MnDOT, residents, stakeholders and partners throughout Minnesota."

MnDOT said the plan will spend nearly $18 billion over the next 20-years, but the state's system has nearly $30 billion in needs.

According to the MnDOT report, 50 percent of the state's highways and 35 percent of the highway bridges are more than 50 years old. Compared to other states, MnDOT says Minnesota ranks 38th of 50 for condition of its interstate highways.

MnDOT says its priorities for the next 10 years "balance preservation of existing infrastructure with investments in safety, new connections for multiple modes of transportation and other projects that advance economic development and quality of life objectives."

However, the organization says over the last 10 years of the plan the focus will be almost exclusively on preserving existing infrastructure.

The plan does not include money for an expansion of Interstate 94 to six lanes, from the metro to St. Cloud. According to the St. Cloud Times, that news has disappointed many local officials.

MnDOT officials have said the expansion is not included in the 20-year plan because there's not enough funding to maintain all of the state's highways and bridges, let alone build more.

MnDot estimates the cost of expanding I-94 to six lanes from St. Cloud to Rogers would cost between $300 and $400 million.

"The investment priorities illustrate the increasing constraints on highway planning in Minnesota, said Zelle. "Growth in construction costs continues to outpace growth in revenue and, as the highway system ages, needs are increasing."

Zelle added in the second 10 years of the plan investments do not address many system needs.

Another MnDOT program called the Corridors of Commerce will expand a portion of I-94 from Rogers to St. Michael, according to the St. Cloud Times.

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