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Rochester lawmaker wants to revamp 'Corridors of Commerce' funding

Calls for geographic balance after Highway 14 project is left out.

Posted: May 3, 2018 1:51 PM
Updated: May 4, 2018 1:41 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. – State Senator Carla Nelson is calling for major changes to the state’s Corridors of Commerce program.

The Rochester Republican says there needs to be more geographic balance after it was announced Tuesday that $417 million would be going to four projects all located within 40 miles of downtown Minneapolis. No money was given to proposed expansion work on Highway 14 between Owatonna and Rochester.

Carla Nelson (R-Rochester).

“A picture is worth a thousand words, and this is clearly not balanced,” said Senator Nelson, referencing the geographic map of projects selected. “Obviously, we need to overhaul the selection process to make it more equitable across all of Minnesota, not just the metro.”

Nelson is proposing several changes to address the issue. One would require equitable funding for all eight transportation districts throughout the state. Another would have the Minnesota Legislature designate each project that should receive Corridors of Commerce funding. A third idea would use legislative support as a criteria in the selection process.

“In the meantime, I am advocating for trunk highway bonds to fund Highway 14 in our 2018 bonding bill,” says Senator Nelson. “This is a project that is essential for the safety, commerce, and transportation of our entire state, not just Greater Minnesota. We cannot wait for the Corridors of Commerce selection process to be overhauled. The time to fund Highway 14 is now.”

The Corridors of Commerce program was created in 2013 and the Minnesota Department of Transportation says it has handed out hundreds of millions of dollars to dozens of projects around the state.

“It is important to note that we followed direction set by the Minnesota Legislature regarding the solicitation, scoring criteria and geographic distribution of funding,” saysMnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “We brought the scoring criteria to the public to get input prior to the solicitation. And, MnDOT did not put any projects in that solicitation.”

Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce interim president Kathleen Harrigon also issued the following statement: "MnDOT's decision  to exclude Highway 14 from its latest round of project funding is deeply disappointing. The affected communities and all its partners have played by the rules - organizing significant support for this critical project only to once again witness Greater Minnesota lose out to metro area projects.

"We need a system that is both fair on paper and fair in reality. The Chamber urges the legislature to review the Corridors of Commerce program carefully before more funds are dedicated to this program.

"In addition, the Chamber will work with our legislative delegation to support funding for Highway 14 in the bonding bill or other means to fund this important project."

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