2012 transportation policy bill gets passed by House


The 2012 version of the omnibus transportation policy bill was green-lighted by the House.

Passed 89-38 as amended in the early-morning hours by the House, HF2685 now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Joe Gimse (R-Willmar) is the sponsor.

The passage came about an hour after the 2011 omnibus transportation policy bill was passed.

One of the more important provisions, according to Rep. Michael Beard (R-Shakopee), the bill’s sponsor, is that in the event of a government shutdown, construction projects that are funded with constitutionally dedicated Trunk Highway money could continue.

“That wasted not only about a month of time, but about $70 million to date it appears closing down and starting them up again. That seems to be unnecessary,” Beard said. “If the Legislature has appropriated the money, the governor has signed the bill, and contracts have been signed and dirt is flying that those projects could continue should the Legislature not be able to agree on a budget going forward.”

Another key component, Beard said, would restore some Met Council funding to the suburban opt-out transit providers.

Because of increased automobile purchases, the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax funds accruing to the Met Council are up nearly $18 million, Beard said. “We’re asking that a small portion of that be restored to some of the opt-out funding, particularly some of the more successful ones in Maple Grove, Plymouth, Shakopee, Prior Lake that were setting their money aside for expanding park-and-rides and express bus service have found their funds cut by the Metropolitan Council. We think those can be restored with these funds that have come in that were not expected.”

Opponents, such as Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), said it would violate the spirit of an agreement between legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton to help resolve last year’s state government shutdown. He also said the $18 million is the forecasted increase, while the actual increase is $7 million. “We’re basing this policy on a forecast, but not actual money.”

Hornstein added it would also treat the suburban opt-outs different than all the other transit providers covered under last year’s global agreement to end the shutdown. Further, it would also “not take care of” Greater Minnesota transit.

Other provisions in the omnibus bill include:

  • establishing a temporary program whereby the Department of Transportation can enter into contracts with a construction manager or general contractor for parts of construction project administration;
  • directing MnDOT and the Department of Employment and Economic Development to conduct a freight rail economic development study;
  • amending the information that goes on a vehicle title for a restored pioneer vehicle; and
  • broadening a “first haul” exception to vehicles that exceed weight limits by no more than 10 percent and are performing the first transport of unprocessed farm products or unrefined forest products to a location within 100 miles.

An amendment successfully offered by Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), would require MnDOT to establish a noise stakeholder group regarding construction projects near the intersection of Interstate 94 and Highway 280 in St. Paul.