MnDOT: Widening I-94 Not Priority; Bachmann Seeks Support
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann sought Monday to muster support in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. for money to add a new Interstate 94 lane in each direction between Maple Grove and Monticello.
The congresswoman came to the state Capitol along with supporters from local government and businesses to talk about the project, as well as a related push to upgrade Highway 10 that runs parallel to the heavily traveled interstate.
Backers of the I-94 project are trying to amass $25 million for the first construction phase of an expansion that could reach $100 million when fully complete. The improvements to Highway 10 are priced at $300 million.
Bachmann said transportation is one of the main responsibilities of government because it directly affects safety and commerce. She said it's a matter of prioritizing federal transportation dollars, not raising the federal gas tax to pay for such projects.
"This is one of the supreme duties of government, that no one can do privately is build roads and bridges and interchanges and we are woefully behind on infrastructure," Bachmann said. She added, "When you add lanes, you add jobs. It's that simple."
Bachmann said she has put the projects on the radar of key House GOP officials and said the local buy-in could improve its chances of being funded. There also is legislation on the state level to move the road project ahead.
But Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said the I-94 widening doesn't rank high on the agency's long-term list of priority projects.
"There are projects like this all across the state - really good projects, really important projects, projects that have tremendous support like this," he said. "It all really boils down to the funding piece."
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Chris Egert contributed to this story
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)