Replacement of the Lowry Avenue bridge in Minneapolis topped a list of 27 projects approved by Hennepin County commissioners Tuesday as candidates for federal stimulus money.
The board approved projects that would cost just over $172 million. Thirty-one other projects that cost more than $208 million were bumped back to board committees for further discussion. Commissioners are eager to get projects moving as soon as possible to compete for the federal funding, and more projects likely will surface for approval in the next two weeks. All of the projects still must win approval from federal officials or state agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation, that are allotted lump sums of federal funding.
With $66.5 million requested to help replace the Lowry Avenue bridge and $30.7 million to rebuild the Family Medical Center at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), the board approved the two biggest items on its list of possible projects. The Family Medical Center, a major provider of primary health care to the uninsured, is outdated and overcrowded and has needed replacement for at least a decade, one commissioner said.
But other smaller projects are seeking federal aid, too. The smallest is a $136,800 proposal to refit 76 pre-2007 diesel engines on county vehicles with equipment to make their exhaust cleaner.
Other projects approved by the commissioners include:
• $38.5 million for energy efficiency and conservation, including replacing heating, lighting and air-conditioning systems and roofs in many county buildings. New libraries in Plymouth and Maple Grove would get green roofs and other energy efficiencies. East Lake, North Regional, Franklin and Linden Hills libraries would get heating and cooling fixes or insulation.
• $34.9 million in work on roads and bridges, including repaving, deck overlays and sign and signal replacement.
• $900,000 in new technology to create systems to share information on criminal offenders and to automate charging of suspects by speeding electronic transfer of information between city, county and corrections officials.
• $600,000 to maintain roads and trails, eliminate buckthorn, restore habitat and plant trees in parks and cities using crews of juvenile and adult offenders who are doing community service under the Sentenced to Serve program.
Missing from Tuesday's action were proposals to renovate two historic buildings at Fort Snelling, restore eroding stream banks and boost funding for a county attorney initiative to improve community policing. The projects are expected to be discussed again in committee.
Since the county administrator’s initial list of 43 recommended projects came out last week, commissioners have added 15 new proposals. They include spending $3 million to clean up Robbinsdale’s Crystal Lake, $2.1 million to speed processing of DNA evidence, $561,700 to replace 16 county fleet cars with American-made hybrid vehicles, $2.5 million to complete the renovation of the Shubert Theater in Minneapolis and $9.7 million to replace HCMC’s hyperbaric chamber, the only such facility in the state.
None of the newly proposed projects was approved Tuesday. The board did agree to develop a county proposal for accommodating high-speed rail from Chicago through St. Paul to Minneapolis. No money, however, is yet attached to that proposal, which was opposed by Commissioner Jeff Johnson.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380