Infrastructure bill provides boost for Twin Cities transportation projects

Backed up traffic on a snowy highway
Snowfall snarls the Tuesday morning commute in Minneapolis on Nov. 29. New federal funding will allow the Metropolitan Council to potentially give the green light to many more transportation projects this year.
Ben Hovland | MPR News file

New federal funding will allow the Metropolitan Council to potentially give the green light to many more transportation projects this year.

In a normal funding cycle, the Met Council would have about $200 million in federal funding to dole out for long-term projects. Under the new infrastructure plan signed into law last year, that number is more than $325 million.

Every two years, the Met Council solicits project proposals from agencies across the region. The approved projects then receive a piece of the federal grant funding allocated to the metropolitan area.

The list becomes part of the Transportation Improvement Program, which describes all federally funded projects planned for the metropolitan area over a four-year period.

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The funding usually comes from the federal Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) Program and Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds. This year, the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act also provides millions in funding to rehab and replace bridges, and for projects that would reduce carbon emissions.

"We were able to go from 44 projects to 91 projects,” said Charles Carlson, director of Metropolitan Transportation Services for the Metropolitan Council. “These projects are spread across different modes. So road projects, pedestrian projects, bike trails as well as transit projects around the region."

The list includes road and transit improvements on Rice Street in St. Paul. The Met Council signed off on allocating $7 million dollars to improve pedestrian and bike access as well as make room for Metro Transit's planned G Line bus rapid transit route.

"It gets a fair amount of traffic but it has a lot of small businesses on it, a lot of schools, a lot of parks,” said Nick Fischer, project manager. “A lot of people are walking and biking to wherever they want to go, and the roadway's just not built for great pedestrian accommodation."

Roughly half of the projects involve roadway improvements, with the rest split across pedestrian, bike and transit. The Met Council’s Transportation Advisory Board signed off on the list in November, ahead of the council vote to approve the projects earlier this month.

The rest of the funding for projects will come from local sources, for a total of $702 million. Construction would begin on the projects over the next few years, as part of the 2024-2027 Transportation Improvement Program.

Final approval is expected sometime in 2023.