Last week the Senate Capital Investment Committee completed a multi-day tour of bonding project requests around the metro area. The trip marked the fifth leg of our statewide #MNfrastructure tour, during which we heard presentations and visited sites related to dozens of capital improvement projects in every region of the state.
The metro tour took us around the Twin Cities, to places like Stillwater, Plymouth, St. Paul and the University of Minnesota. We visited the locations of bridge rebuilds, interchange improvements, colleges, economic development proposals and services for at-risk individuals.
Space prevents me from discussing every project we toured, but I wanted to share a few of them with you. Please note that these are just interesting projects and not a comment about what might or might not be included in the final bill.
Road and bridge projects: Republicans have always considered roads and bridges projects to be the bread and butter of our capital investment bills, and this year will be no different. During the metro tour, we learned about projects to build a safer traffic interchange in Stillwater; to move a frontage road at a dangerous intersection in Oak Park Heights; to fix a road that experiences severe flooding problems in Golden Valley; to build a safer intersection in North Oaks near 35E; and to make improvements to two structurally deficient bridges on Kellogg Blvd in St. Paul – one near the Xcel Energy Center, another about a mile and a half northeast.
Higher education projects: Minnesota is fortunate to have several leading higher education institutions, and on our tour of metro projects we met several students who are doing cutting edge work in deficient facilities. At the University of Minnesota, we met with students at the Institute for Child Development (ICD), where they are doing phenomenal research on brain development in a building that is incredibly out of date. Half of ICD faculty can’t even do their research in the building because of space constraints. We also visited two of the chemistry labs in Smith Hall. Those labs have not changed since the 1930s!
At Century College, we toured their state of the art “Fab Lab”, where students are learning amazing new digital fabrication tools and techniques, like 3D printing of artificial limbs. (They weren’t asking for any bonding money for the lab, they just invited us to tour it.)
We also toured the state’s Agriculture and Health Lab. This innocuous sounding building is anything but – this is the facility where they test infectious diseases (think “Ebola” and “Zika” and you get the idea) and other hazardous materials. They need to make architectural, mechanical, and electrical improvements throughout the building to alleviate concerns related to emergency responses, food safety, infectious diseases, homeland security, and environmental contaminants.
I sincerely appreciate everyone who took the time to present their projects to us. It is easy to see their passion is sincere, but the hard reality is that we have too many requests and not enough resources. In fact, this year the state received more than $5 billion worth of bonding requests.
Session begins Feb. 11, and I can promise you the committee will be carefully reviewing each project and evaluating them on their merits.
If you have any thoughts about these projects or any others under consideration, please feel free to reach out to me any time at Sen.John.Jasinski@Senate.mn.