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Transportation bill would bring $1.4 billion to Minnesota

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate began voting on a $109 billion transportation bill Thursday that would extend surface transportation programs for another two years.

Minnesota received about $676 million in transportation funding last year
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Congress needs to approve an extension to federal transportation projects before the end of the month, when the government loses the authority to spend money on infrastructure projects. Minnesota received about $676 million in transportation funding last year and under the Senate bill, the Minnesota Department of Transportation projects that figure could max out at $702.6 million in fiscal year 2012 and $714.5 million in 2013. The House bill, by comparison, would provide about $51 million less in 2012, according to an analysis from Transportation Weekly.

“There are some good things in [this bill],” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee. “For our state, no one knows better than Minnesota how important bridges and roads are.”

The Senate bill has enjoyed broad bipartisan support (it passed a procedural vote 85-11 in February) that the House version has never received. Both bills consolidate federal transportation programs and remove some of the bureaucratic red tape that traditionally delays projects. But the Senate’s bill maintains current levels of funding, plus inflation, and keeps in place a dedicated funding source for mass transit projects, which the original House bill would have ended. Sue Haigh, the chairwoman of the Metropolitan Council, said the council supports a bill that keeps guaranteed mass transit funding in place.

“That’s always been very positive. We need the same [five-year] window for other investments,” she said. “Right now, it is so hard to get things done, but we get what we can.”