Gov. Tim Walz paid a visit to the Highway 93 improvement project in Henderson Thursday, July 16 to highlight the importance of infrastructure development across the state of Minnesota.
In recent years the Rush River, a tributary of the Minnesota River, has flooded Henderson with increasing frequency, causing dangerous and inconvenient road blockages, said Mayor Paul Menne. Last spring the historic small town even celebrated its first Flood Fest, acknowledging the community and its volunteers while also drawing awareness to the need for a solution.
“It’s going to flood again and people are going to feel the economic pain,” Menne said. “That is what we are seeing. . . we’re fortunate that this project is getting some legs.”
“When I ask someone ‘How often is this road closed?’ and they say ‘every year,’ that tells us that we have to do something different,” Walz said.
Funding for the project is part of the Capital Investment Bill, or “bonding bill,” currently awaiting a vote in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The proposed bill contains $300 million in trunk highway bonds and an additional $325 million in local road and bridge improvement grants that will be distributed directly to communities through MnDOT, said Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
Kelliher said this project will draw funding from both parts of that bill, at a total cost of $25 million specific to the Highway 93 project.
“This road will be raised up approximately eight feet in height all the way up to (Highway) 169, and we’ll have to lengthen the bridge at the Rush River,” said District Engineer Greg Ous.
In total, the project will span a little over three miles, Ous said.
The House and Senate will were scheduled to meet Monday to decide whether or not the bonding bill will pass.
Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said that although he sees addressing area flooding as “critical,” the Republican minority “would like to see some type of negotiation with the governor to modify his emergency powers act before we provide the votes to pass the bonding bill.”
“This project is on the five-yard line, we just have to punch it into the end-zone,” Gruenhagen said.
State Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, commended Henderson residents on getting the attention of their representatives in order to meet a growing need.
“This type of a project has to do with public safety, and it has to do with the economy in the State of Minnesota, because a good transportation system is vital to the entire state,” Newman said. “Folks that live out in the areas where these projects need to be done are of critical importance to the people that live down in St. Paul.”
“As Henderson goes, so goes Duluth. As Duluth goes, so goes Winona, and as Winona goes, so goes St. Paul,” said Gov. Walz. “The idea of investing this money here makes a huge difference.”
Gov. Walz said he is hopeful that a bipartisan solution will be reached. He also spent time acknowledging local concerns about the project.
“There’s always. . . environmental disruptions, disruptions to private property, there’s issues of, ‘Is the project big enough, or is it too big?’” Walz said. “We hope those things get negotiated out.”