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Explaining the bonding bill’s impact on southeast Minnesota

RST Airfield, plane
Courtesy: Rochester International Airport

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- On Wednesday night, after more than nine hours of debate, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bonding bill. This was eight months in the making, long delayed during a pandemic and legislative gridlock in St. Paul.

It passed by a vote of 100-34, with 25 Republicans joining the DFL- controlled House in passing the bill. State Rep. Nels Pierson (R-Rochester) voted in favor of it.

The measure still needs to pass the GOP-controlled Senate. Legislators in that chamber have not committed to the package. It will take an absolute majority vote to pass, meaning 60% of state senators must vote in favor of it.

The Senate reconvenes at 11 a.m. on Thursday.

The current version of the bill that the House passed has major implications locally.

It would pay for a new runway and safety improvements for the Rochester International Airport. RST would receive $11.4 million from the state.

The project, which has been years in the making, would upgrade parts of Runway 220. The entire plan will cost $79.2 million but the airport is asking for a portion of that.

John Reed, the airport's director, told KTTC in July that the goal was to start construction by the spring, and have a new runway within five years.

The bill would also provide funding for improvements at Cascade Lake Park. The city of Rochester would receive a grant of $2.5 million to create a "pavilion, an amphitheater, performance facilities, picnic shelters, restroom facilities, play areas, park access and landscaping."

Additional funding goes to improving a Highway 14 intersection that continues to see a high number of accidents. The state would provide $6 million to create a new interchange for Highway 14 and County Road 104.

Former Olmsted County commissioner James Daley died in a crash at the intersection in July.

The city of Oronoco would receive $24 million for a wastewater treatment plant. An existing plant in Austin would also be improved, thanks to $7.45 million in state funding.

Finally, Chatfield would receive funding for a renovated Center for the Arts. The $8.7 million pays for "interior, exterior and amenity improvements," as well as electrical, plumbing and HVAC system upgrades.

A flood mitigation project is being done in Albert Lea to raise the roadway of Highway 65. The city would receive $2.68 million for that effort.

A new jail will be constructed in Winona County. A grant of $750,000 will be provided to purchase the land for that project.

Click here for a full list of projects as part of the House-approved bonding bill.

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Byron Tollefson

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