More than $1 billion from a pair of infrastructure bills is headed to the Twin Cities metro area, with the money expected to kickstart road and bridge construction, fund more than 50 nonprofit organizations and launch upgrades to parks and community sports centers.
Many of the largest projects have been on the back burner for years as communities waited for state aid. Some local leaders said they were "ecstatic" to see spending for major projects across the state, especially after the 2022 legislative session ended without a bonding bill. Metro-area city and county governments and nonprofits will account for almost $1.04 billion in a mix of borrowing and cash from the $2.6 billion infrastructure package Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign Thursday in Minneapolis — the largest in state history.
"We feel really good we can move forward with our projects," said Brooklyn Park City Manager Jay Stroebel.
Still, some requests remain unfilled.
Minneapolis had hoped for $10 million to help make sidewalks compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but settled for $2 million from a state transportation bill. And two requests went unanswered: $9 million for upgrades to the Minneapolis Convention Center and $17 million for design and repair of the Nicollet Avenue South bridge over Minnehaha Parkway and Minnehaha Creek. Those projects remain on hold.
But lawmakers did fully fund the city's request for $9.9 million for the Central City Tunnel project, an ongoing $58.3 million effort to expand storm tunnels that drain into the Mississippi River, some of which date to the 1800s.
"That was really one of our top bonding priorities because it was underway, and we're working toward getting that completed," said Katie Topinka, Minneapolis government relations director.
The state infrastructure package also includes $1.7 million for updating the Emergency Operations Training Facility in Fridley. Primarily operated by the city of Minneapolis, the facility will offer new training for firefighters, including rescues from a collapsed roof or caved-in trench.
Other cities, including Edina, Brooklyn Park, Golden Valley and Shoreview, are getting money to put toward new fire stations, equipment and training facilities for police and firefighters.
Across the river, St. Paul officials are excited about funds that will move major city projects forward, including $25 million toward replacing the bridge that carries Kellogg Boulevard from downtown St. Paul to Mounds Boulevard. St. Paul also is receiving money for parks and recreation centers, including $6 million toward construction of the North End Community Center.
"I think St. Paul, as a whole, got a very awesome package from the Legislature this year," said Parks and Recreation Director Andy Rodriguez.
The city's requests were not all fully funded, Rodriguez said. The capital city requested $16 million for the River Learning Center, but received $8 million.
"We shoot for the moon, but might get half," he said.
The St. Paul Port Authority will use $11 million in state funding to start building infrastructure as the agency transforms the former Hillcrest Golf Course into a mixed-use development called the Heights, promising 1,000 jobs and 1,000 homes.
Ramsey County received funding for park space in St. Paul, including the planned downtown Park at RiversEdge and the Bruce Vento Trail that will eventually connect St. Paul and White Bear Lake.
More than 50 Twin Cities nonprofits are getting grants through the infrastructure package for their capital projects, as are four metro community and technical colleges. The bills allocated $15 million to help pay for a north Minneapolis aquatics center. Homeless shelters and food pantries, cultural and community centers and several arts organizations also received millions.
The director of St. Paul's Walker West Music Academy was thrilled to learn the school in the Summit-University neighborhood was awarded $4.1 million to help buy and remodel a building.
Executive Director Braxton Haulcy called the funding a "monumental community investment." Walker West plans to use the building as a community space and for teaching, rehearsals and performances.
Suburban communities received millions for local and regional priorities, such as Washington County's effort to rework an intersection on increasingly busy Hwy. 36 to eliminate a frustrating stoplight in Lake Elmo.
"We needed $20 million from the state to make anything happen here, and they delivered. So we're pretty ecstatic about it," said Washington County Public Works Director Wayne Sandberg.
Shakopee is getting almost $8.3 million toward stabilizing a section of the Minnesota River bank. The city has lost 50 feet of shoreline to erosion.
"The city administrator has been working on this for as long as I've been in Shakopee," said Michael Kerski, planning and development director. "I mean, this has been [the] No. 1 priority."
One of the biggest slices of funding will go to the Hastings Veterans Home, $78 million for a major renovation, said Ben Johnson, legislative director for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. The project will consolidate five older residential buildings into one new one, with private bedrooms and bathrooms for veterans.
"We're really excited that the Legislature saw the value of investing in that campus," Johnson said.
State funding will cover only about a third of the total cost, he said.
Other local governments and nonprofits were also left to figure out how to get the rest of the money needed to complete their projects.
Bloomington is among the cities pursuing a local sales tax to supplement state funding. The Bloomington Ice Garden is getting just under $2.3 million for renovations, but the project is expected to cost $35 million. Assistant City Manager Mike Sable said the state funds will cover design and planning work, which he said will keep the project moving forward.
Richfield may also look to voters to approve a sales tax to pay for new classroom spaces at the Wood Lake Nature Center, which city officials estimate will require another $9 million to finish after receiving $12 million in state funds and $3 million from the federal government.
The Legislature approved local sales tax requests this session, but voters in each community will have to sign off before any tax is levied.
The city of Mound is working to get $4 million in "congressionally directed spending," also called a federal earmark, toward treating city water for manganese.
City Manager Eric Hoversten said "large, ungainly public works projects" like a water treatment plant — and any of the major infrastructure projects that received state funding — will take time and more money.
But he is optimistic in light of this year's capital spending bills.
"The expression of support from the state," he said, "is a great start."
Staff writers Katie Galioto and James Walsh contributed to this report.