Minnesota highway, transit projects getting millions in federal funding

Two major Minnesota highway construction projects will receive millions in federal funding after having success in a competitive bidding process involving projects across the country.

In an exclusive interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the two Minnesota projects were selected from 660 applications from 44 states.

"One in ten (projects) approximately were awarded this money," Chao said. "So Minnesota… needs to be very, very proud for having won the award for $37 million for two projects in Minnesota."

One project involves $15 million for two new bridges along U.S. Highway 10 near the border of Ramsey and Anoka Counties. The other $22 million will be used to widen U.S. Highway 14 from New Ulm to Nicollet, including replacement of pavement first installed in 1938.

Meanwhile, Chao said the $929 million awarded to the Southwest Light Rail project this week by the Federal Transit Administration isn’t necessarily the end of the line for that type of funding, despite a huge drop in ridership during the pandemic.

"We’re seeing a double-digit return to mass transit ridership already," she said. "Now that’s not saying much given how low mass transit dropped in the depth of COVID-19." Still, she says it’s encouraging.

By late June, mass transit ridership in the Twin Cities had dropped 69%, including an 80% drop on light rail. Chao says new COVID-19 safety protocols and an improving economy should help.

"As we adapt to these new times and as consumer confidence levels return I think there will be a return to transit because people need to get to work and they can’t all use cars," Chao told KSTP.