For years, Winona's city leaders have been seeking millions of dollars to extend Louisa Street and provide East End retail stores and manufacturers with additional access to Highway 61. Could their wish come true this year?
On Monday, the Winona City Council will vote on whether to ask for $4.2 million dollars from the state of Minnesota and match that in property-tax funded local bonds.
The resolution before the council on Monday indicates that general obligation bonds would be used to fund the $4.2 million local match. A voter referendum would be required for the council to issue such bonds directly; however, the city of Winona Port Authority could use special legal powers to issue such bonds without voter approval for a project within the Riverbend Industrial Development District.
The project would extend Louisa Street along the eastern edge of Menard's and Mills Fleet Farm and cross Highway 61 to continue past Rogan's Shoes. A bike path was planned to run along the road; however, the path was removed from the state funding request. City staff stated that they will seek other means of funding the bike path. Removing the bike path reduces the project cost from last year's roughly $9 million figure. Previous cost estimates for the project were higher, at $10 million.
The extension is billed as "Phase I" of a two-step project. The city has plans for the second phase, constructing a railroad overpass on Louisa Street, though it does not have plans for the $14 million in funding needed.
The proposal is similar to the city's bid for state funding for the project as part of last year's bonding bill. Last year was not a traditional "bonding year" for the state legislature, and the Louisa Street project was not included in the bonding bill that was passed. This year is a traditional "bonding year," however, and state legislators are discussing more significant borrowing.
In 2006 and again in 2007, the city sought a referendum to levy a half-cent sales tax for the Louisa Street extension, but it was rejected by voters.
City staff members note that traffic along Mankato Avenue has increased by 25 percent over the last decade. Others point out that much of the congestion is due to the large retail stores east of Mankato Avenue. That area was billed as an industrial park and site preparation for those businesses was funded by $4 million collected with a half-cent sales in 1998.
The council will meet on Monday, January 6, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.