by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Sixth District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann visited the State Capitol on Monday, March 18, to advocate for two north metro transportation projects.
Flanked by a semi-circle of Republican legislators and local leaders, Bachmann pushed for funding lane additions on Interstate 94 — a business-life artery, said one business leader — and dollars for improvements on heavily traveled Highway 10.
“One thing we all know is politics is a team sport,” said Bachmann, touting her own efforts by citing hundreds of meetings with district officials and speaking of shared resolve on transportation.
A parade of business leaders stepped to the podium to stress the importance of Highway 10 and I-94 to their businesses.
David King, a production manager at Vision-Ease Lens in Ramsey, spoke of safety concerns and frustrations for company employees needing to navigate Highway 10 in that city. Beyond this, the company, which produces a large number of lenses for eyeglasses, relies on the state’s transportation infrastructure to conduct business.
Concern over Highway 10 was shared by Anoka County Commissioners — a handful in attendance — with Commissioner Matt Look talking of transportation “heart blockage” and the need for stents.
Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said: “Hopefully we can get some of the pieces of the puzzle to fit together so we get funding.”
Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, spoke of the vexing problem of Highway 10 to his city, saying the nearby railroad tracks complicated upgrading the vital highway.
“Elk River is really a divided city,” he said of the transportation grid within the city.
Anoka County officials look to upgrade five intersections on Highway 10 through a stretch of highway between the cites of Anoka and Ramsey. The planned improvement carries a $300 million price tag. County officials indicated the intersection of Armstrong Boulevard and Highway 10 will be addressed soon.
Bachmann said the bulk of funding for the envisioned lane additions to I-94 will involve federal funding. She mentioned speaking to the U.S. House Transportation Committee officials about the initiative, indicating receptiveness and saying the proposal had “traction.”
According to the I-94 West Corridor Coalition, I-94 from Highway 241 in St. Michael to Highway 23 in St. Cloud accounts for 40 percent of the congestion on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s interregional system, though accounting for less than two percent of the roadway.
Proponents want to add additional I-94 lanes in phases, with the idea of eventually adding lanes from Maple Grove to St. Cloud.
For her part, Bachmann indicated that finding sufficient federal funding was a matter of prioritization. She indicated that increasing the federal gas tax, not increased since 1993, was a separate issue.