Talk of a nearly $24 million extension and overpass project for Louisa Street has resurfaced as the governor and state legislators hash out potential bonding for statewide grants. A $750 million bonding proposal from Governor Dayton includes $4.73 million for extending Louisa Street to Highway 61 "to support business expansion."
Dayton's proposal would provide half of the funds needed for the roughly $9 million extension. The city has been eyeing the Louisa Street project for nearly 15 years. Plans call for the extension and an approximate $14 million railroad overpass as a way to ease congestion on Mankato Avenue.
The House of Representatives put forward its own bonding bill last week, which called for $800 million in borrowing. Louisa Street was not on that list. Rather, the House would send $450,000 to the city of Mankato for roads and $1.5 million for redevelopment of Red Wing's levee and riverfront.
That bill passed one House committee last week, and on Tuesday both wings of the legislature will discuss bonding proposals. For now, however, it is unclear what projects might get funding and whether there will be a bonding bill at all.
woes, sales tax attempts
"The intersection of Highway 43 and 61 is an extremely busy location," City Manager Judy Bodway said. Many citizens agree with that statement. That intersection and Mankato Avenue are often teeming with cars and trucks, and all of that traffic comes to a standstill when trains block the Mankato Avenue crossing. The city has long wanted an overpass at Louisa Street and an extension to Highway 61 to relieve that congestion, but a palatable funding option has never been secured.
Some of that congestion is the result of the large retail stores that fill the lion's share of a development area now known as Technology Park. That site was promoted as an industrial park that would supply Winona with high-paying jobs. The cost of preparing the business park was funded by a half-cent sales tax in 1998. Through the tax, the city collected $1.35 million more than the $4 million approved by voters and the legislature. Bodway explained that the extra funds were collected due to a 90-day process the city had to use to halt the collection of the tax.
In 2006 and again in 2007, the city tried to pass a referendum to levy a half-cent sales tax for funding for Louisa Street. The city's current Capital Improvement Plan calls for a half-cent sales tax to fund $10 million for the extension in the near future and $14 million for the railroad overpass in 2017.
Bodway said she was pleasantly surprised to see funds for the Louisa Street extension in the Governor's proposal. However, even if a bonding bill which includes that project is realized, the city will have to figure how to pay for a $4.73 million local match to get the state funds.
"Obviously, local bonding debt is one of the options," Bodway said. "Whether we can look at the local sales tax to pay for that, we would have to research that."
Half-cent sales taxes are often used to fund multiple projects. Winona Mayor Mark Peterson mentioned a sales tax as one potential funding source for renovations at Levee Park, should the city decide to pursue such a project.