Back on April 23, Rep. Mark Buesgens (Jordan) reminded us at the Post Review that Rep. Jeremy Kalin (D-17B) voted for a 42% increase in the gas tax.
While local writers have not be able to get Kalin to respond, his fellow Representative did. Thank you Mr. Buesgens. Kalin’s writes:
Because of partisan politics in previous years, the only major impediment to building a new bridge in North Branch was lack of state funds. The bipartisan 2008 Transportation Bill changed all that. Design on the new North Branch bridge should begin this year, with construction likely in 2009.
On February 22, 2008, Kalin provided a press release, but did not state any thing about a new I-35 bridge in North Branch as a result of the T bill passage.
In March, Kalin said Mn/DOT had penciled in the bridge replacement for 2012 although he didn't give any documentation for that. He also said the City of North Branch had secured funding from Congress for it.
On April 11, 2008, Kalin stated "Passage of this [HF 2800] bill likely will allow the North Branch Bridge design to begin in 2008 with construction to follow soon after" (my emphasis).
And now, Rep. James Oberstar has announced there is federal money to the tune of "$7,120,745 for the design and construction of a new bridge on Highway 95 in North Branch."
Oberstar has potentially bailed out his buddy, Kalin. These dollars come out of money left over from projects in the 2005 federal transportation bill. Oberstar has pulled the right strings, but the bill still must be signed by President Bush.
So it is stretching the truth to say as Kalin did above, "the only major impediment to building a new bridge in North Branch was lack of state funds." Kalin is just plain lucky that there were left over federal funds and that a Minnesotan is head of the federal Transportation Committee. Without those two factors, the bridge would still not be built before 2012.
So now the question becomes, if the $7 million of federal money actually comes through, how will the state have enough money to pay for the whole project earlier than scheduled? Won’t some other bridge in Minnesota have to wait? Will a local, safe, but functionally inadequate, bridge be bumped ahead of bridges ranked lower in safety?
It’s one thing to pass a bill and authorize the money to build roads and bridges. It’s another thing for the state to collect the money and allocate each year’s resources to all the needs in priority. Projects like the highway 23 bridge in St. Cloud have a way of upsetting well-intentioned schedules. Kalin just might be out of office before anything happens on the North Branch bridge.