The Highway 23 Coalition Board met with Patrick Weidemann, Director of Planning and Programming MnDOT Office of Transportation System Management. Mr. Weidemann specializes in the Corridors for Commerce Program, which is a separate bucket of money for Minnesota corridor projects. He shared with the group a number of updates and changes to the Corridors of Commerce programming. In addition to these changes, a main focus of the discussion was the regional balance issue.
Regional Balance Issue
Regional balance is currently understood as splitting of funds equally between the metro and outstate areas. However, problems are arising because these two geographic areas have not yet been defined. To someone in Thief River Falls, Elk River could be considered metro, while someone from Minneapolis might consider Elk River outstate.
As a part of the Corridors of Commerce criteria, MnDOT's group is instructed to make the awards provide regional balance. Unfortunately at this point, regional balance is not defined. Mr. Weidemann shared that during the 2022 Legislative Session MnDOT worked extensively with several legislators to try to develop a more defined approach to regional balance and to get that put into law. Unfortunately there was no legislative action on that program. MnDOT will continue to work with the 2023 Legislature to try to resolve this issue early in the session before MnDOT plans to announce project awards on May 1, 2023.
The bucket of money that is available for the Corridors of Commerce funding cycle is half of what it was for the previous cycle. The funds available for this next round of funding is approximately $200 million. These funds will need to be split amongst the entire state of Minnesota.
2022-2023 Project Selection Timeline
Mr. Weidemann shared with the group that the project timeline is on schedule. The project recommendation process has been submitted and online submittal process is currently live as of August 1, 2022. Project proposals need to be submitted by the end of November. MnDOT will begin their review process at that time. Awards will be announced May 1, 2023.
The Highway 23 Coalition would like to extend our appreciation to Mr. Weidemann for attending and presenting to the group. We look forward to our continued partnership to help build a 4-lane Highway 23 Corridor across the state of Minnesota.