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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Howard (DFL)

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Jobs & Local Projects Bill Passes with Critical Funding for 77th Street Underpass

Friday, October 16, 2020

St. Paul, MN – This week, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bipartisan Jobs & Local Projects and Critical Economic Development bill with investments in infrastructure and economic stimulus to help communities bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other items, the bill includes $6 million to complete funding on the 77th Street Underpass project. This provision was authored by State Representative Michael Howard (DFL - Richfield) and State Senator Melissa Halvorson Wiklund (DFL - Bloomington).  

The 77th Street Underpass will help open a gateway in southeast Richfield, providing passage to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport under Cedar Avenue. Completion of this project will help improve transportation along the 494 corridor while creating economic opportunities and convenience for Richfield residents.  

“To say this moment has been a long time coming would be an understatement,” said Rep. Howard. “The 77th Street Underpass will benefit our region and our Richfield community in a multitude of ways, and amidst a time with so much gridlock in government, this is a shining example of folks coming together to get things done that will improve lives.”  

For more than a decade, leaders have worked to move the 77th Street Underpass project forward. Former State Rep. Linda Slocum secured $10 million in funding for the 77th Street Underpass during the 2016 legislative session. Hennepin County Commissioner Debbie Goettel helped secure county funding as well. City leaders including Mayor Regan Gonzalez and staff spent hours at the State Capitol testifying and lobbying for the passage of the bonding bill, as well as completing design work on the project to ensure it can move forward quickly once funding is approved. Howard thanked all of the leaders who have been part of this team effort.  

“The opportunity to carry the baton forward to secure this funding is very rewarding, but most of all, I am grateful for all of the leaders who have worked tirelessly for more than a decade to better our community,” said Howard. “It is the vision and persistence of so many Richfield leaders that have turned the dream of the 77th Street Underpass into a reality.”  

The city of Richfield hopes to begin construction on the 77th Street Underpass in 2021 with project completion in 2022.  

In total, the Jobs & Local Projects and Critical Economic Development bill contains $1.879 billion toward public assets such as higher education institutions, clean water infrastructure, transportation, parks, trails, and $116 million in bonding for public housing rehabilitation and new housing infrastructure.  

“While the sorely needed resources in this bill will be a benefit to communities across the state, this injection of financial support only scratches the surface when it comes to the crisis of affordable housing in Minnesota,” said Rep. Howard. “This pandemic will end, but we need to make sure Minnesotans have the resources they need to weather COVID-19 and bounce back afterwards. This bill is a long awaited first step in Minnesota’s economic recovery.” 

The bill also contains a policy fix for short-term rental properties, flexibility for the Minnesota State High School League’s sales tax proceeds, and much-needed raise for home health care workers.  

A full list of projects included in the bill can be accessed here and the legislation itself can be accessed here.