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1/23/2014 12:07:00 PM
To spend $15 million on roads in year 2014
Goodhue County Board

by Paul Martin

2014 will be a year of major roadbuilding in the County, Goodhue County Board heard at its January 21 meeting. Director of Public Works Greg Isakson presented the figures to the Board. Spending is planned to be about $15 million. Of this, about $8.4 million will come from bonds sold by the County, about $3.2 million from Federal funds, and the rest largely from State Aid.

The County was already committed to a rolling five-year program of large projects on its highways, and had bonded $13.4 million to pay for them. They were joined by the two major improvement projects on Hwy 52, at Hwys 24 and 9.

"We need to have a five-year plan so we can apply for Federal and State funds," Isakson explained. "Since we have had to pay our share of the work on Hwy 52, it is likely we will need to bond more to pay for it all." Finance Director Carolyn Holmsten said, "The answer to the question of how we pay for the work lies in the 'structuring' of the bonds: when do we sell them, and how long is the payback period."

Heading the list are the start of the reconstruction of Hwy 6 between Hwys 9 and 1 at $5.5 million, and the new Hwy 24 bypassing Cannon Falls at $3.47 million. Other million-plus expenditures will be on Hwys 10, 11 and 12, and the County share of the Hwy 9 overpass on Hwy 52. The biggest projects in 2016 forward will be the rebuilding of Hwy 1 between Hwys 9 and 44, and the completion of Hwy 24 to Hwy 19 east of Cannon Falls Schools. "Federal funds are in place for Hwy 24 in 2016," said Isakson, "so we are committed to that."

"We're Committed to the Work, now we have to Pay for it"

Commissioners are wary of further bonding, especially while still unsure of the cost of the work to be done on the Citizens Building in Red Wing, but they are aware the work needs to be done. Commissioner Ted Seifert said, "I am unwilling to put future boards in debt to current needs."

Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel pointed out that he has to drive on the failing roads in the west of the County, and shot back, "To say we don't want to bond money or pay taxes sounds good on camera, but solves nothing. We have to look at the life-cycle of the project we are paying for. It is sound to pay for roads over 10 years, and buildings over 15. We have voted on and are committed to all of this work. Now we have to deal with the reality of paying for it."

Commissioner Rich Samuelson agreed. "Our road system is a great investment," he said, "and it is wise to keep the levy level. People hate it when their taxes go up and down."

County has 440 Bridges

The Board also approved a priority list of bridges to be replaced in 2014-18, if funding can be found. Head of the list, and almost certain to be built, are the Territorial Road Bridge in Florence Township and the 330th Street Bridge in Stanton Township. Rounding out the 2014 list are bridges on Hill Avenue (Florence), 342nd St. (Warsaw) and 425th St. (Wanamingo).

"We usually forget bridges as we drive over them," observed Commissioner Jim Bryant. However, the County has about 440 bridges, including those on the Cannon Valley Trail and the City of Red Wing which it maintains under contract. This places Goodhue County third in the State, after only St. Louis and Fillmore Counties.

Lastly the Board voted to support a Minnesota Association of Counties resolution that urges the Legislature to invest in a balanced transportation program as a major priority. Bryant urged Townships to support the resolution also, since roads are their biggest concern.

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