Minnesota Senators got a chance to hear from southeastern communities Monday and Tuesday as they weigh projects for potential funding in the upcoming legislative session.
Members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee made stops in Fillmore and Winona counties to hear about projects, including ongoing bike trail expansion in La Crescent.
The group, chaired by Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, makes recommendations and forms the first draft of projects to fund.
Tuesday morning in the Winona City Hall, La Crescent Mayor Mike Poellinger and members of the city administration met with the lawmakers to solicit funding for the remaining part of the Wagon Wheel Trail.
The trail has been under consideration since the early 2000s and received its first funding in 2007.
The first phase, from the city of La Crescent to the Shore Acres community, was finished in 2015, and the second area, ending at the West Channel Bridge to connect to La Crosse, will start construction this year.
The final installment, currently around $250,000 short on funding, would put a bridge from the beginning of the trail to cross Hwy. 14 and Hwy. 61 to South First Street in La Crescent.
The city has already received $1 million in funding for the completion of the project from the MnDOT.
Bill Waller, city administrator, said the project was initially delayed by being required to work with 12 different agencies to do the environmental assessment for the whole project at once, rather than individually for each phase, but now they had the advantage of being able to move forward as soon as they receive funding.
“We’ve persevered, we’ve continued, and we’re going to see this thing through,” Waller said.
The first phase of the project cost around $1 million and the second will be around $750,000.
The trail is also expected to be used year round in ways other than biking, like cross country skiing, where it isn’t plowed.
Poellinger said that in addition to connecting the cities of La Crosse and La Crescent in a convenient way for cyclists, it also provides a safe passage across the highway for homes on the other side from downtown.
The city also noted that MnDOT has been fully supportive of the project through all their efforts.
“We’re on the home stretch,” Poellinger said.
In addition to La Crescent, Winona’s Port Authority put in a pitch for future infrastructure improvements.
MnDOT’s Port Development Assistance Program has helped fund numerous improvements at the city’s commercial harbor, most recently announcing in the award of $454,512 toward a project to install new paved driveways, retention ponds and reinforced concrete piping at the city’s port.
In addition to directing the stormwater effectively to ponds, the improved pavement is expected to reduce dust and help with the truck traffic at the port.
The state funds will cover around 80 percent of the project, which is estimated to cost $649,550.
Lucy McMartin, Winona community development director, said funds and matching grants allow the port to be competitive and create a regional shipping hub that moves 1.6 to 2.2 million tons per year by barge, rail and truck.
“This is very critical that we have the infrastructure funding available to maintain the port,” McMartin said.
In the future they are hoping to receive funds to install sheet tiles to enforce the western dock wall, in which they said they noticed deterioration.
Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, is a member of the committee and said that throughout the tour they’ve seen productive projects coming out of the funding provided by the state, often in partnership with local communities or private funding, including in Winona and La Crescent.
“We saw some really good examples of these two communities being proactive,” Miller said.