The nearest precedent that Solberg could recall was a left-turn-lane addition built last fall and funded by Interstate Mills grain company on Hwy. 56 near Randolph in Dakota County.
Elkins cited a project completed several years ago on Hwy. 169 at Bren Road in Minnetonka. There, UnitedHealth Group and the city helped fund an interchange that would have been at least 20 years away otherwise.
It makes sense for companies to pay for infrastructure projects that benefit them and increase the value of their property, Elkins said.
If the Scott project is unusual for Minnesota, public-private partnerships are common in other states, Johnson said.
The Shakopee tribe has been contributing funds to transportation projects for 20 years, often in partnership with Scott County and local cities, said Bill Rudnicki, tribal administrator.
They funded a $17.5 million project in 2005 to construct an interchange on Hwy. 169 in Belle Plaine, with the state later repaying them, he said.
But this is the first time the tribe has been the exclusive funder on a state highway project, he said.
The tribe has 4,200 employees and 1,000 vendors. “We started getting involved with this because I think we saw a need,” Rudnicki said. “What we’re looking at is to eliminate the weave and improve the safety of the roadway on 169.”
When cars are driving south on the highway toward Shakopee, the road goes from four to three lanes. About a mile before County Road 83, it goes down to two lanes, something that Canterbury Park CEO Randy Sampson has “grumbled about” since they built it.
Over Memorial Day, there were 30,000 concertgoers at Canterbury Park, plus 7,000 people there to watch races, Sampson said.
“This will take a lot of pressure off by having that extra lane,” he said. “I think it’s terrific that they have offered to fund this expansion.”
Open for debate
MnDOT is not paying for or designing the road but will review plans and inspect the finished product, requiring staff time. Those hours are minimal, Solberg said.
If private money pays for building or expanding a road but doesn’t pay for maintenance, that cost could one day fall on the public, who may not have supported the project in the first place, Johnson said.
Still, MnDOT is open to private entities offering to pay for road improvements, Solberg said. “As long as they meet the standards and as long as it is not detrimental to the system, we certainly are going to move forward with anything that makes sense,” he said.
Rudnicki said tribal representatives have spoken to other area businesses and received their support.
“We’ve done a lot of [projects with] different partnerships and relationships,” he said. “This is just another way we can help out.”