2014 wish list is long for west metro communities

Communities are lining up to to make requests of the state in 2014. Transportation issues are especially crucial for them.

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Passengers take Southwest coaches starting from Eden Prairie’s station. Transportation funding, including the Southwest Light Rail, is a high priority in Eden Prairie.

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As a new year rings in, west metro cities and counties’ resolutions for 2014 mean going back to the Legislature to lobby for everything from local road work to light rail. Here’s what city and county leaders have on their wish lists to lawmakers when the session reconvenes Feb. 25:

Carver County

Transportation is an important issue for Carver County, which in 2014 will move forward with the Southwest Reconnection Project. The $58.8 million effort will build a new, 4,200 foot, four-lane bridge over the Minnesota River flood plain, linking Carver and Scott counties. The current road in that location, Hwy. 101, has two lanes and floods frequently each spring.

The project will also involve rebuilding about 3,600 feet of Hwy. 61 that intersects with the bridge.

Carver County Administrator Dave Hemze said the county is seeking $17.1 million from the state for the Hwy. 61 upgrade, either in capital bonding or in additional funds from a special highway account.

“We feel the state should live up to their obligation and fund their share right away, so it doesn’t put as much pressure on our local budget,” Hemze said.

The county is also seeking a clarification in state law to allow its cities and townships to be treated as equals in terms of revenue from fines that are charged for certain crimes. Now, receive a portion of the fines, but townships don’t. Hemze said the townships need the revenue to help pay for law enforcement services they contract from the Carver County Sheriff.

Chanhassen

State funding to upgrade two portions of Hwy. 101 is at the top of Chanhassen’s priority list. City manager Todd Gerhardt said corridor improvements are needed to improve safety, expand economic growth, create new jobs and expand the tax base. The areas are each along Hwy. 101: between Hwy. 61 and Pioneer Trail, and from Hwy. 5 to Crosstown Boulevard.

Chanhassen also wants the state to avoid the temptation to extend the metro transit bus system if communities don’t want it. Suburban cities now may “opt out” of the metro transit service area and set up their own systems. Chanhassen, Eden Prairie and Chaska have joined forces to do that and work with SouthWest Transit for bus service, which Gerhardt said serves the communities effectively and efficiently.

The city also wants the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to adopt more aggressive policies and strategies to prevent the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels, and to become the main funding source for those efforts.

Chaska

The city wants state funding for a new highway interchange at County Road 140 and Hwy. 212 in Chaska’s southwest development area. City administrator Matt Podhradsky said the addition would be “an investment in regional economic development” and would open up a large area for corporate and industrial newcomers.

Chaska also supports more transportation funding to expand Hwy. 212 to four lanes from just west of the city of Carver to Cologne.

Eden Prairie

In Eden Prairie, the city will be advocating for transportation funding, especially for the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail line, an estimated $1.5 billion project that would go from downtown Minneapolis through St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and end in Eden Prairie. Of the 17 stations along the proposed 15-mile line, Eden Prairie and Minneapolis would have the most number of stations — five in each city.

Eden Prairie City Manager Rick Getschow said the suburb, like the other west metro cities on the line, see it as an economic development opportunity to spur new jobs and help reduce congestion from commuters going to and from Eden Prairie, especially on Hwy. 62 where UnitedHealth Group is building a massive $250 million building complex.

Over the next four years, UnitedHealth plans to build four buildings and parking ramps on the 71 acres near Hwys. 62 and 212; of those, one of them, a 15-story tower, will be the tallest building in Eden Prairie. It will bring an estimated 6,700 UnitedHealth employees to the area, concerning nearby residents and city officials that the influx will jam an already clogged Crosstown.

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