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State schedules extra transportation projects

ST. PAUL — The Dayton administration plans to construct 10 highway projects around Minnesota to improve commerce transportation.

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The projects are not part of the state’s 20-year transportation plan, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday that the projects will show Minnesotans what can be done if transportation revenue is increased.

“It will give Minnesotans an indication of what’s possible with increased funding,” he said of the $300 million program known as Corridors of Commerce.

Projects the next three years range from adding passing lanes to Minnesota 23 from Willmar south to Interstate 90 to doing the same on Minnesota 34 between Detroit Lakes and Nevis.

While just two of the eight projects are in the Twin Cities, transportation officials say money spent will be about even between the metropolitan area and greater Minnesota.

Dayton and Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle said that unless something changes, the state will fall $10 billion short of what is needed just to keep state highways at today’s levels.

Most state highway funds go to preserving existing roads, not expanding them.

The governor said the Corridors of Commerce program will serve as an example of what is possible.

Dayton plans to give legislators a proposal to increase transportation funding next year, but on Thursday said he does not know how it will look. He said the gasoline tax, even if raised, would not provide needed money.

He said he did not know if he can garner the needed support next year, during a legislative session he wants to be the “unsession,” dedicated to overturning unneeded laws and other items that have little budget impact.

“This is a down payment,” Zelle said of Corridors of Commerce. “It is not nearly enough.... It is essentially to add capacity ... and help freight movement.”

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.