Council awards federal funding to 56 transportation projects

Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Metropolitan Council approved dozens of transportation projects for federal funding on January 27. As the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Met Council distributes about $200 million every two years to projects that meet regional transportation needs.

As part of last year’s Regional Solicitation, local governments, transit providers, and nonprofits submitted nearly 140 transportation projects to compete for federal funds. Scoring committees narrowed down the submissions and the Transportation Advisory Board recommended the final slate to the Met Council for agreement on the selections.

A circled location to the northwest of Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park.Some of this cycle’s funding highlights:

  • Reconstructing Franklin Avenue from Hennepin Avenue to Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis, including pedestrian, bicycle, and streetscaping improvements.

  • Expanding the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority’s Burnsville bus garage to house 30 more vehicles to serve the MVTA service area and downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

  • Improving Highway 41 (Chestnut Street) for pedestrians to enhance the livability and streetscape environment along historic downtown Chaska’s Main Street.

  • Building a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Coon Rapids Boulevard in Anoka County to create a safer crossing for walking and biking and creating a connection to the Coon Creek Regional Trail.

“Our transportation system needs to work for everyone,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle. “The projects selected through the regional solicitation improve connections and access to get people to the places they want to go and open doors to opportunity across the region. Investments like these are based in a shared vision of our transportation system. That vision is shaped by the people who live in the Twin Cities.”

People boarding an A Line bus in winter.

Funding for METRO F Line arterial bus rapid transit

In its review of the previous funding cycle, the Transportation Advisory Board saw the need to support the region’s bus rapid transit network. The board set aside $25 million to invest in a future line designed to improve speed and comfort on heavily used bus corridors.

The funding set aside for this new project will allow Metro Transit to deliver one complete project — the METRO F Line. Previous solicitations did not make room for these larger projects and required them to be broken up into multiple transit applications across several funding cycles.

“Funding the METRO F Line reflects the board’s commitment to funding bigger projects that have a broad impact for the region,” said Council Member Deb Barber, who represents the Council on the Transportation Advisory Board. “Applicants are often piecing together funding from federal, state and local sources already. This set-aside allows a significant project to advance with certainty instead of having to wait two years for another award.”

Metro Transit is currently prioritizing potential lines based on evaluation criteria including costs, ridership, and other benefits; public engagement; and readiness principles. In early 2021, staff will share the public input and present recommendations for the METRO F, G, and H lines.

A person walking out of a tunnel under a road.

Hovland: With each funding cycle, the program improves

Overall, local elected officials and community representatives who make up the Transportation Advisory Board selected 56 projects for funding including highway, bridge, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects in 36 different cities and townships, and all seven counties throughout the region. All with the support and guidance of staff, technical and scoring committees.

“The process is extensive, objective, comprehensive, and complex but at the end of the work, we generally reach consensus on the awards to improve the region’s transportation system,” said Edina Mayor Jim Hovland, board chair. “Everyone who works on the solicitation approaches the program thoughtfully, fairly, and equitably. This means that with each cycle, we continue to improve the program, resulting in better outcomes for everyone who lives in the metropolitan area.”

In this cycle, the board awarded the largest federal funding share to bicycle and pedestrian projects in Regional Solicitation history, with 17% of the total funding. Below are a few highlights of projects selected in each transportation area.

Bicycle and pedestrian projects

  • Minnetonka’s Hopkins Crossroad multi-use trail will provide connections to regional trails, a Metro Transit park-and-ride lot, and local schools.

  • Inver Grove Heights will replace 30 pedestrian curb ramps to meet ADA standards and improve the walking experience for seniors and people who have disabilities.

  • Mahtomedi’s Safe Routes to School project on Warner Road and 72nd Street will provide sidewalk connections to three local schools.

An MVTA bus at the Marschall Road Transit Station park-and-ride.

Transit and travel demand management projects

  • A new limited-stop transit route along Highway 55 from Plymouth to Golden Valley to downtown Minneapolis, providing commute and reverse commute service, as well as access to education, shopping, and medical appointments.

  • Upgrades to transit fareboxes across regional transit providers to ensure customers can continue to pay with cash, and expand more flexible payments methods.

  • Move Minnesota’s project to change the school commute to encourage youth to use transit instead of driving, shaping their future transportation decisions while impacting the climate and congestion.

Two cars driving toward a bridge over the divided highway.

Roadway projects

  • Intersection improvements for freight, mobility, and safety where Highway 212 and County Highway 51 meet in Carver County to address a major safety need at this location.

  • A new grade-separated interchange in Jordan that improves safety and freight operations and creates an improved crossing for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.

  • Replacement of the 40-year-old bridge at Kellogg Boulevard and Third Street in Saint Paul, including new and reconstructed intersections and signals.

The Transportation Advisory Board also approved over $31 million of federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funding for 26 projects throughout the region. These projects promote safety by addressing design elements to reduce crashes, particularly those of a severe nature. Projects funded place an emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle safety and include roundabouts, pedestrian safety features, and lighting.

The selected projects will be included in the Draft 2022-2025 Transportation Improvement Program, which will be available for public review during the spring and summer of 2021.

The next full Regional Solicitation and Highway Safety Improvement Program solicitation will take place starting in the spring of 2022 for projects seeking funding for 2026 and 2027.

Find the full slate of project awards on the Regional Solicitation results page.

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