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Pawlenty announces stimulus road projects

By Don Davis

St. Paul Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL - Federal economic stimulus money will provide $180 million for 60 Minnesota transportation projects outside the Twin Cities.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty flew around the state Wednesday announcing his plans for highway construction, paving, bridge and safety projects.

"These projects will mean jobs in greater Minnesota and lasting improvements in our state's transportation infrastructure," Pawlenty said. "These road and highway projects are exactly the kind of bread and butter projects that we should have seen more of in the federal stimulus package. Unfortunately, only $27.5 billion of the $787 billion bill funds highway improvements"

Pawlenty said federal authorities think the greater Minnesota projects will create about 5,000 construction jobs.

Stevens County will benefit from $275,000 worth of work on Highway 28 beginning in September, and a stretch of roadway from Ortonville to Graceville will be refurbished at a cost of $7 million.

The governor plans to announce Twin Cities projects later.

Work on the greater Minnesota projects could begin as early as May, after contractors are picked next month.

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., earlier praised state Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel for having a list of projects ready to begin as soon as federal money became available. Oberstar is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"We will make sure that Minnesota's share of the federal stimulus funds is used efficiently and effectively on shovel-ready transportation projects around the state," Sorel said. "We are optimistic that Minnesota will meet the required federal deadlines and we appreciate the support of our local partners and stakeholders."

The $180 million is part of $596 million Minnesota expects for state and local highway and transit projects in the next two years. The stimulus bill, signed into law by President Barack Obama last week, is designed in part to provide government jobs quickly to help the economy.

The most expensive project on Pawlenty's list is an $18 million U.S. 53 concrete overlay north of Duluth. Other major projects include:

-- $7 million for resurfacing U.S. 75 in Big Stone County.

-- $14 million for Minnesota 7 concrete overlay in Chippewa County.

-- $10 million to improve the Interstate 94-U.S. 10 intersection southeast of Fergus Falls and to improve rest area parking.

-- $8 million for a U.S. 196 improvement in St. Louis County.