The council also heard of potential development at a former dump site, and took action on other issues.
City administrator Steve Bot said Congresswoman Bachmann would be conducting a press conference at the Capitol March 18 in support of transportation improvements to Interstate 94 as well as Hwy. 10 in the metro.
The city has consistently lobbied both in St. Paul and Washington, D.C., for improvements to the I-94 corridor. It has a very verbal partner in the I-94 West Chamber of Commerce, which organized the I-94 Coalition of supporting cities like St. Michael, Albertville, Rogers and Otsego.
Bot said there are a number of House and Senate files introduced at the legislature for improvements on I-94. It was also noted that Wright County is supportive of the project, and St. Cloud acknowledged improvements to I-94 are critical for its businesses as well.
Reached after the March 18 press conference, Bot said the event was very well attended, including St. Michael Mayor Jerry Zachman and councilors Chris Schumm, Nadine Schoen and Kevin Kasel; Wright County Commissioner Mike Potter; Albertville Mayor Jillian Hendrickson; area Rep. David Fitzsimmons; area Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer; Rogers Mayor Jay Bunting; I-94 West Chamber President Rhonda Baack, and many others.
Bot said one bill is to extend six lanes from Hwy. 101 in Rogers to Hwy. 241 in St. Michael, a corridor he said has twice the statewide crash and severity rates. But it’s not just safety. Bot also cited freight, mobility, congestion and economic development.
“(Bachman) is basically trying to raise awareness at both federal and state level to get this done,” Bot said. “There is a bill out there now with a lot of bipartisan support, 19 reps on the house bill. There is a lot of momentum now.”
He said the next step is to get bills passed and “hopefully” obtain funding, whether through the Minnesota Department of Transportation or special legislation. He said the Rogers to St. Michael segment could be built in 2014 for $25 to $30 million, including a new Crow River bridge. Other bills he mentioned propose six lanes all the way to Clearwater, Wright County, but said costs would dictate doing the project in segments.
“Some of this message is this should be a priority to MNDOT,” Bot said.
Councilor Schumm commended Bachmann and her staff for organizing the event and taking the lead. “It’s really going to help the community and that’s what this is all about,” he said. “If we can get that construction started, everybody who goes on 94 will have shorter commute times and more safety.”
Rep. Fitzsimmons introduced House File 1292. In a press release, he said, “The bill calls for MNDOT to prioritize the expansion from 4 to 6 lanes the portion of I-94 between Rogers and St. Michael in the next four years so that further expansion to Albertville and Monticello can take place in future years. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus transportation bill.
“This expansion of I-94 from Rogers to St. Michael is a vital step that will allow future highway expansions to Albertville, Monticello, and beyond. This project is important to commuters, businesses, shipping, and tourism throughout the Northwest metro and Central Minnesota.”
He said the bill, authored by fellow Wright County legislator Rep. Marion O’Neill (R-Buffalo) is also supported by the Central Minnesota Transportation Alliance made up of St. Cloud local governments and business groups, who believe expansion is vital to a healthy St. Cloud area.
In other news, community development director Marc Weigle said there has been some recent interest in developing the former dump site located on 32nd Street.
He presented a concept plan for development that includes five single-family home lots.
The council was cautious to move forward since the site has only been stabilized for a few years. The council did indicate it would support selling the site for one or two homes and keeping the land for a future public use. But if it were sold for development, the council said it’s not interested in spending any money on testing the site and would want to ensure any risk from the landfill would be transferred to the developer.
The consensus was to keep the land as is.
In other action, the council:
REQUESTED Legion members attend a future council work session to further discuss the Legion’s plans for a memorial park at the intersection where the two one-way streets connect in downtown.
OPTED not to offer any tax abatement of other incentives at this time for development of a commercial property near Town Center. The property would not qualify for Tax Increment Financing since it is zoned for commercial use.
HEARD an update about the ice arena from councilor Schumm, who sits on the arena board. He said a contractor is scheduled to look at the cause of a roof leak, the problem of which has resulted in increased insurance due to a roof repair.
Contact Aaron Brom at [email protected]