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Feds award $8 million for Highway 169 interchange in Jordan

A long-sought interchange project on Highway 169 in Jordan received an $8 million boost in federal funding, U.S. Rep Angie Craig announced last week.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s grant will support the construction of a grade-separated interchange at Highway 169 and Highway 282.

The grant marks a major influx of dollars towards Scott County’s efforts to improve the highway corridor.

The project, once completed, will replace the last signalized intersection within a 75-mile stretch of Highway 169, according to Craig’s office.

In a statement, Craig touted the project’s ripple effect on Minnesota and the global economy by improving the critical economic corridor in Scott County.

The interchange project is particularly vital for rural communities who rely on the corridor to transport agricultural commodities to barge shipping ports on the Minnesota River in Savage, Craig said.

In a statement, Jordan Mayor Mike Franklin said he’s thrilled about the investment, which demonstrates Highway 169’s evolution from a “sleepy country highway to a major thoroughfare for commerce.”

“There shouldn’t be a stop light in the middle of I-35, and 169 shouldn’t have one in Jordan, either,” Franklin said.

State and local agencies involved with the project applied for the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant earlier this year.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that our Congressional representatives helped secure this funding,” Scott County Commissioner Barb Weckman Brekke, who represents the City of Jordan and its surrounding areas, said in a press release. “Our residents, businesses, and visitors will certainly see the benefit of this investment for generations, and our partnership with the city has been absolutely invaluable in this effort.”

Prior Lake City Councilman Kevin Burkart, who is chair of the Highway 169 Corridor Coalition, said Craig has been a champion for improvements to the highway.

“Our appreciation to Angie and her team is immeasurable,” Burkart said in a press release from Craig’s office. “They have been with us each step of the way as we move forward with this mission critical intersection improvement.”

The Highway 169 interchange is one item on a list of projects aimed at improving safety on Scott County’s overburdened freight corridors.

The region’s traffic is driven by Minnesota’s second busiest water port, the Ports of Savage.

In addition to the project planned for Jordan, several other projects are being planned or underway in Scott County to improve the flow of traffic surrounding the major shipping hub.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is set to break ground next year on an interchange project at Highway 13 and Dakota Avenue to improve safety near the port entrances, and several other projects are under review for Highway 13.

“Improving public safety and enhancing the efficient movement of people and goods throughout this region have always been two of our most significant priorities,” Scott County Board Chair Jon Ulrich said in a press release. “This federal grant funding is essential to moving this project forward and helping us realize that goal.”


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New research explores pandemic's impact on Scott County residents

New research exploring COVID-19’s impact on Scott County reveals disparities in how the pandemic impacted local residents, but the study’s findings also illustrate a sense of optimism for the community’s recovery.

The COVID-19 impact assessment, completed in partnership with the University of Minnesota and Scott County Public Health, examines the overall health of local residents by exploring financial stability, mental health, physical health and other areas.

The survey-based research, conducted this summer, found several racial and economic disparities in the pandemic’s impact on local residents.

Dr. Gina Erickson, Scott County’s data planner for the research, presented the findings to the Scott County Board of Commissioners earlier this month.

The survey’s 405 respondents tended to be more racially diverse and younger than the county’s overall demographic, according to Erickson. However, she said, that was by design, as researchers hoped to include populations that are often missed.

Researchers connected with local residents at places such as coffee shops, ethnic markets and vaccine clinics and surveys were conducted in English, Spanish and Somali.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

While nearly 90% of respondents describe their overall health as good, very good or excellent, there’s been a significant increase in the percentage of residents reporting fair or poor health, according to Erickson.

This year, the number of residents who reported being in fair or poor health was nearly twice as high as a local survey found in 2014.

“It’s significantly higher than our pre-COVID levels,” Erickson said.

Around 20% of survey respondents reported their physical health had gotten worse during the pandemic.

“For those who were already in poor or fair health, they were more likely to report the declines in health over the course of the pandemic,” Erickson said.

One contributing factor may be delays in seeking medical care during the pandemic.

More than a quarter of respondents reported delaying or foregoing dental care and around 19% reported impacts to their preventative or medical care.

Around 11% of respondents reported delaying or foregoing mental health care, and these respondents were more likely to cite access issues than concerns over the virus itself.

Of respondents who had COVID-19, around 15% reported dealing with a new health issue after the virus.

MENTAL HEALTH

Around 19% of survey respondents reported their mental health had worsened due to the pandemic.

Of these respondents, 1 in 7 reported a depressed mood and more than 1 in 10 reported they’d considered self-harm or suicide during the last year.

“These are concerning numbers for us,” Erickson said.

The survey found that those reporting “other” as their race — including Asian American, Native American and Native Hawaiian populations — were more likely to report they’d seriously considered self-harm or suicide compared to white, Black and Hispanic respondents.

The survey also found differences based on income.

Findings showed respondents earning $50,000 or less were more likely to have considered self-harm or suicide than respondents at higher income levels.

Of all survey respondents who reported increasing their substance use during the pandemic, more than 60% attributed the increase to stress.

Another 57% of respondents cited boredom, around 36% cited mental health concerns and roughly 29% cited loneliness.

“Substance use is increasing largely because of stress-related or other mental health-related reasons,” Erickson said, adding men were more than twice as likely as women to increase substance use.

The largest increases were seen in alcohol use, according to the study. Smaller increases were seen in tobacco and marijuana use, and around 2% of respondents reported an increase in other types of drug use.

In addition to increased substance use, the study found men were more likely than women to report negative impacts to their social well-being, including lost connections with family and neighbors.

FINANCIAL STABILITY

In looking at financial stability, the survey found around 25% of respondents reported their financial situation had worsened during the pandemic and around 15% of respondents said their financial situation improved.

Medical bills and rent or mortgage payments were among respondents’ top financial concerns.

“Like with other areas here, we see that disparities were worse for those with lower incomes,” Erickson said.

The findings showed local residents earning $100,000 or more were significantly more likely to see their financial situation improve while those earning $50,000 or less were more likely to see their financial situation worsen.

Nearly half of respondents who reported a negative impact on their financial situation cited job loss.

Around 6% of respondents attributed the impact on their financial situation to COVID-19, whether it was due to recovering from the virus or caring for someone with the virus.

More of half of survey respondents who reported having a child, or are expecting, said they are concerned about their child falling behind on reading.

Adequate childhood nutrition and access to childcare were also top concerns among parents.

LOOKING AHEAD

Despite the pandemic’s impact on well-being, the survey found most Scott County residents feel hopeful about the future.

Around 75-85% of people said they agreed or strongly agreed that they can count on their community to fully recover.

“That speaks well to Scott County,” Erickson said.


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