NEW ULM - The recent development in the Minnesota Senate's Transportation omnibus bill on Wednesday could prove a boon to Highway 14 advocates if the proposal becomes law.
The bill's proposal to reduce the "at the pump" state gas tax in exchange for adding a 5.5-percent tax on wholesale level fuel sales is expected to generate around $200 million annually. The proposal would provide the missing funding source for the "Corridors of Commerce" program, which would assist up to 20 percent of highway expansion projects that boost economic development. Highway 14 has been held up the prime example of a project this plan could help.
The "Corridors of Commerce" proposal sought a 7 1/2-cent gas tax hike, but Dayton opposed the measure because he thought it lacked public support.
The new Senate proposal is intended to be a possible version of the funding mechanism that Dayton could support.
The "Corridors of Commerce" portion of the Senate bill proposes appropriating $47.6 million for 2014 and $110.28 million for 2015. The proposed new version of the gas tax would be put toward these amounts to allow immediate work on roads.
The "Corridors of Commerce" portion also detained high projects considered in dire need of help. The Highway 14 portions with cost estimates are $20-28 million for four-lanes from North Mankato to Nicollet, $74-145 million for four lanes from Nicollet to Highway 15 near New Ulm, $150-$190 million for four lanes from Dodge Center to Owatonna, $17 -$42 million for a bypass at Nicollet and $32-$50 million for an interchange at Highway 14's intersection with Highway 15 outside New Ulm.
If the proposal moves forward, the funding could get many of the Highway14 projects moving within a few years.
Additionally, the Senate bill picks up the portions of the Minnesota House version that allow counties to establish a one-half cent sales tax to pay for local transportation projects and allows counties to authorize a $10 annual vehicle registration fee.
These two sources would only produce a minimal amount of funds, but could be added towards a project like a Highway 14 four-lane expansion to reduce the amount MnDOT would contribute.