Most west metro cities that made funding requests this year for state aid were excluded again in the Legislature’s bonding bill, which state lawmakers passed and Gov. Mark Dayton signed June 13. That means city leaders will either be back at the State Capitol next year or be on the search for alternative ways to fund major projects. Here’s a roundup of winning and losing requests:
The city was shut out on two funding requests — a $15 million bond issue to expand and improve the light-rail station at the Mall of America and request for highway bonding money to build a new interchange at Interstate 494 and East Bush Lake Road. City leaders say the transit station project already is about half funded, and they will looking for additional funding sources. They have pared the request for the interchange project from $20 million to $5 million and will seek funding for that amount in next year’s session.
In Carver County, a request to appropriate $8 million for an interchange at Hwy. 212 and County Road 140 in Chaska was denied.
Chaska officials consider the intersection a key ingredient in plans for future economic growth and plan to work with area legislators on resubmitting the request in 2016.
The state will fund 90 percent of the $950,000 cost to construct a new noise barrier on the west side of Hwy. 100 between Minnehaha Creek and Vernon Avenue. The city will fund the remaining 10 percent for the project, which will be done in 2016.
City Engineer Chad Milner said a bill seeking an unspecified amount of funds was introduced in the last session by Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, “to increase awareness” of the project. He said Edina later learned it would receive the state funds because it had moved up on a priority list of highway wall projects compiled by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Excelsior leaders will be back at the Capitol next year to make the city’s case for extra help rehabbing its Lake Minnetonka park, the Commons.
The city’s second request to the Legislature for $5 million this year didn’t succeed. The city had argued that thousands of visitors use the 13-acre park and historic port for free each year so it should be supported regionally. Now, the city is revising its plans and planning a town-hall meeting with local legislators.
“The Commons is a key piece to making sure Excelsior is financially successful,” City Manager Kristi Luger said.
The city wants to put in a new band shell, bathrooms, lake walk, concessions stands and other updates. Last year, voters supported an up to 1 percent increase in sales taxes; the city needed the community’s support before going to legislators to ask for sales tax approval. Now, the city will return to the Capitol to ask for bonding funding or sales tax approval.
“We need them to understand how important this is for Excelsior,” Luger said. “We’re out of options at the city.”
Golden Valley/Crystal/New Hope/Robbinsdale
The Joint Water Commission, which includes leaders from Golden Valley, Crystal and New Hope, asked for $5 million to replace a 2-mile water line that brings water to the three cities, but passes through Robbinsdale, where it burst twice in less than a year. It wasn’t included in this year’s bonding bill, so now the cities are going to residents to fund the essential repairs.
Crystal approved a $1-per-month water rate increase, New Hope bumped up rates 30 cents and Golden Valley is expected to consider a rate hike in September.
Since crews were going to reconstruct the line, the city of Robbinsdale asked for $2 million in state bonding bill money to replace its sewer and water supply lines. But now, the line is going to be repaired by lining the old pipe with new pipes to prevent having to dig up all of the roadway, so Robbinsdale couldn’t replace sewer lines. City leaders say they’ll wait until the county does reconstruction on the road before making the city’s repairs.
Plymouth was one of the few cities that got state bonding bill funding this year — the first time in city history.
The city got $4.7 million for a bridge over the Canadian Pacific Railroad tracks on Vicksburg Lane to make it safer for the 15,000 cars that drive there each day. The railroad, which has up to 30 trains a day on the line, raised the tracks to adjust for faster trains. But it created a jump, causing car crashes and a bottleneck. It’s also an essential route for emergency responders.
Construction is slated to start in 2016, part of a two-year $20 million reconstruction project of Vicksburg.
“We’re pleased to bring money back to our constituents,” City Manager Dave Callister said.
He added that the city has already submitted its request for $2.1 million for its ice center next year. It will be the third time the city has asked for $1.3 million for a new roof and parking lot and $812,500 to convert an Olympic-sized rink into a smaller professional-sized one. The city plans to match it with $2.1 million.
Wayzata city leaders will also return to the Capitol. The city asked for $5.2 million for safer railroad crossings, a Lake Minnetonka pier and a lake walk following a failed request last year.
“We’ve always approached it as a multiple-year effort,” City Manager Heidi Nelson said about returning next year.
The city’s downtown is cut off from its lakefront by BNSF tracks, so the city is working to make the area more accessible and safer for visitors. Plans call for $550,000 in safer crossings to the lake, a $3.7 million lake walk between its historic train depot and Broadway Avenue and a $1 million pier at Broadway Avenue. The ideas are part of a 10-year lakefront improvement concept plan, the Lake Effect, approved last year.