WASHINGTON – Leaders across Minnesota are already planning how they will spend their share of the billions in federal infrastructure money heading to the state.
State projects poised to benefit include the massive Twin Ports interchange project in Duluth, where some work was delayed because of unexpected costs. St. Paul's wish list includes $26 million for the eastbound Kellogg Boulevard Bridge. Regional planners in the metro area want to build out bus rapid transit routes and major transitways.
The mayor of Minnesota's third largest city said the money is needed in every corner of the country. "The federal government has been acknowledging it verbally but hasn't actually taken action for so, so many years until now," said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton, who noted the price tag for these repairs can be devastating at the local level. "And so it feels great."
White House estimates show that Minnesota is projected to get $4.5 billion for highways, $302 million focused on bridges and more than $818 million for public transportation over five years from a bipartisan bill that President Joe Biden plans to sign into law on Monday. The state is also projected to get $680 million for water projects.
The federal money will need up to $1 billion in state matching funds over the years, which could require action from Minnesota's now divided Legislature.
"Those are not dollars that MnDOT has in a vault somewhere here right now," Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher said last week.
All but one of Minnesota's DFL members of Congress voted for the bill, while none of the state's four Republicans backed the spending. Rep. Dean Urdahl, the lead Republican negotiator on bonding in the Minnesota House, said Republicans locally and nationally want infrastructure spending that's more narrowly focused than some Democratic proposals.
"We have a lot of needs with our local roads and bridges, with broadband, with wastewater, our colleges and universities," said Urdahl, R-Grove City. "All of these things Republicans are very ready to fund."
Minnesota is also projected to get at least $100 million for broadband, $68 million for electric vehicle chargers, $20 million for wildfire protection and $17 million for cyber protection.
"It's a major win for our state and we're really pleased it got done," Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, adding that "it's going to be significant funding for Minnesota so that we finally can get high speed internet in every corner of our state."
Kelliher sees major potential to tackle a backlog of bridge infrastructure projects. She was Speaker of the Minnesota House in 2007 when the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis fell into the Mississippi River. She said Gov. Tim Walz's administration plans to talk to legislators about using state and federal dollars for a "major bridge investment program."
"As the money starts flowing, either late this year or early next year, we'll be able to move some things forward that we frankly had to put on the shelf and hold off on because we just did not have the funding," Kelliher said. "We are excited that the partnership with the federal government will help us do that."
At an event promoting the bill's passage, Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips said funding for water infrastructure will be critical for communities that can't afford to keep up with their aging systems.
"We are blessed in Minnesota to have ample clean water; unfortunately, a lot of the systems are aging rapidly — they need a lot of help," Phillips said. "The water component of this bill is perhaps the most important, in addition to the roads and bridges."
Charlie Zelle, chair of the Metropolitan Council, said in a statement that the "historic investment of $39 billion nationally in new transit funding will also ensure that new funding is available to help regions like the Twin Cities build out fast and frequent arterial bus rapid transit routes and major transitways like the Green and Blue Line LRT extension and the Gold and Purple Line BRT projects."
Airport infrastructure in Minnesota is expected to get about $297 million, according to the White House. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said the federal legislation "provides an important lifeline to airports, whose capital programs have been set back years by revenues lost due to the pandemic."
For Duluth, the area's infrastructure includes an airport, seaport, roads and bridges. DFL Mayor Emily Larson describes her community as "a tiny nation" that could be a "perfect incubator" to see what the funding can do for a local government.
"When you really step back, you realize we're kind of this potential national model of all of the intersections of this bill flowing together in one community," said Larson.
Although it's unclear exactly when Minnesota will get the money, the Biden administration is making it clear the deal is a critical part of the Democratic president's agenda.
"Congress has just passed one of the most ambitious investments in jobs and infrastructure in most of our lifetimes," Polly Trottenberg, the deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, said during a press call, adding that "this is going to be the largest investment in roads, bridges and highways since the creation of the interstate system."
Staff writers Katie Galioto and Jessie Van Berkel contributed to this report.