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Oberstar bill includes local road, trail projects

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar's six-year transportation package includes $112.6 million earmarked for northern Minnesota, including two Bemidji-area projects.

Oberstar, DFL-8th District, as chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is working on legislation to authorize funding for most of the nation's transportation infrastructure investments for the next six years.

He has labeled 49 projects as High Priority Projects for the 8th District, totaling $112.63 million. The list includes:

- $1.5 million -- Beltrami County, County Road 33 from County Road 8 to County Road 12, 4.4 miles. Reconstruct the highway to provide 12-foot paved driving lanes, 7-foot paved plus 1-foot gravel shoulders to improve safety, service life and load capacity of the roadway.

- $800,000 -- Bicycle-pedestrian trail bridge over state Highway 197 in Bemidji. Construction of multi-modal Paul Bunyan State Trail bridge over Highway 197 at the intersection of the highway and First Street East. Project termini will connect the east and west segments of the trail by providing an overpass over Highway 197.

"We all know of instances where dangerous roads are not addressed in a timely manner or critical projects cannot move forward because funding is not available," Oberstar said Friday. "Giving members of Congress the ability to dedicate funding to such projects allows them to respond directly to the needs of their constituents. Citizens and communities have the constitutional right to ask their congressman for help and the HPP process is an important tool for responding to those concerns."

Although the vast majority of the funding is distributed to states and local governments by formula, a small percentage is held aside for members of Congress to designate for High Priority Projects in their states and congressional districts, Oberstar said.

Regional HHP projects include:

- $2.42 million -- Shingobee Trail connection. Construction of multiuse paved trail from the Heartland State Trail through Walker connecting to the Paul Bunyan State Trail, creating a 24-mile scenic biking loop. The trail will provide a safer biking environment for bicyclists of all levels, eliminating the shoulder use on a congested highway.

- $2.24 million -- Main Avenue reconstruction project, Park Rapids. Demolition and reconstruction of 10 city blocks of Main Avenue, from First to 11th streets, and the resurfacing of the 10 intersecting streets one block on either side. The Main Avenue surface is bituminous which was laid in 1979 on concrete poured in 1930.

- $200,000 -- Park Rapids Safe Routes to School Project. Following the advice of a recent school safety audit, the project involves safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians along both sides of Helton Avenue between state Highway 34 and Monico Lane, along Monico Lane from Helton Avenue to U.S. Highway 71 and along Pearl Street from Huntsinger Avenue to Highway 71.

The six-year authorization bill is being drafted by Oberstar and his committee. He plans to introduce it in June. The current six-year transportation authorization expires Sept. 30.