Road construction on Minneapolis' mind as city bids for $30M of federal cash

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Reconstruction of major downtown Minneapolis streets, bridges and bike trails are among projects put forward by the city council as it bids for $30 million of federal funding.

There is $150 million available from the U.S. Department of Transportation for metro area projects planned for 2018 and 2019. The City of Minneapolis has identified nine projects it intends to submit for a slice of the pie.

The projects were revealed in a presentation given at a Transportation and Public Works meeting on Monday, the Southwest Journal reports.

They include a $7 million bid to part-fund the total reconstruction of the road, pavement, curb and gutter on 8th Street South between Hennepin and Chicago avenues; and a three-quarter mile stretch that includes the main entrance to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Also on the list is a bid of $7 million to go toward the rehabilitation of the 10th Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi, which could cost upwards of $42 million and would address the "ongoing deterioration of concrete areas" on the bridge, the city says.

The other projects listed in the city's presentation are:

  • The reconstruction of 0.8 miles of Broadway Street NE between Stinson Boulevard and Industrial Boulevard.
  • Widening the deck of the 40th Street pedestrian bridge over Interstate 35W to improve it for bike users.
  • The installation of protected bikeways for University of Minnesota students on 19th Avenue SE and 15th Avenue SE.
  • A pedestrian and bikeway between the Orange Line Transit Station in Lake Street and the Midway Greenway,
  • Sidewalk, street-lighting, landscaping and crosswalk improvements in the North Loop area.
  • Pedestrian improvements at Emerson and Freement Avenues North.
  • The improvement of pedestrian safety near city high schools and bus stops frequently used by students.

$150m pot open to wide range of groups

The $150 million federal funding pot is allocated for local projects and is administered by the Metropolitan Council and the Transportation Advisory Board, with applications taken every two years.

The funding is open to a wide-range of organizations, including counties, cities, townships, colleges and universities, school districts, transit providers, state agencies, park districts, private nonprofits and American Indian tribal governments, according to the Metro Council website.

The City of Minneapolis has applied for a fifth of the total funding available for applications made this year, but there is no guarantee that all will be approved. In 2011, just five out of the 11 projects it submitted were accepted.

The Metro Council only announced last month that it will be accepting applications for the latest round of federal funding, and the deadline is December 1, so more organizations can be expected to submit their own proposals in the coming weeks.

Rules changed to benefit the poor, disabled and minorities

It was 2011 that the Metro Council last approved federal funding for projects, and the reason why there has been a three-and-a-half year delay is because changes to the rules designed to benefit the Twin Cities' poor and people of color, MPR reports.

From now on, transport projects will not only be judged based on criteria like usage, safety and impact on congestion, but 10 percent of the final score will be based on "equity."

This means projects that benefit low-income populations, people of color, children, people with disabilities and the elderly will score higher in this category, MPR notes.

The new rules form a part of the Metropolitan Council's Thrive MSP 2040 project, in which racial equity plays a major role in plans to address the challenges facing the city over the next 30 years.

The Star Tribune reports that this focus has prompted criticism from cities in the south metro area, who argue it could lead to a greater proportion of future transportation, water and sewerage funding being allocated to inner-city areas.

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