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Wabasha pitches $12.7 million plans to House bonding committee

Wabasha is asking for more than $5.5 million to develop a commercial port, help develop new area of town.

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Wabasha Mayor Emily Durand speaks during a House Capital Investment Committee bonding tour stop Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at The National Eagle Center in Wabasha. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

WABASHA — A port, a better road, and some space to add more housing and business.

That's what's at stake for the city of Wabasha on Wednesday as it asked members of the House Capital Investment Committee for $5,571,500 for a pair of projects that will cost a total of $12.7 million.

"We wouldn't request state bonding funds if we didn't need it," said Wabasha Mayor Emily Durand. "We need our small cities to shine and be part of the economic fabric of the state."

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Both projects, Durand said, are related to the "staggering quantity" of dredge material the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pulls out of Pool 4 of the Mississippi River every year while maintaining the shipping channel for barge traffic. The Corps annually removes 270,000 cubic yards of dredge material.

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The first project would build a commercial port where dredge material and commodities could be loaded onto barges in Wabasha. The port facility would cost $2,750,000, of which the city is asking the state to help with $1,237,500.

The second project would reroute Minnesota Highway 60 so it connects more directly with the bridge that links Wabasha to Wisconsin. That project would cost $9,950,000, of which the city is asking for $4,334,000 in state funding.

State Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, said a thousand trucks a day cross the bridge. Realigning highway would mean traffic would have easier access from the bridge to U.S. Highway 61, lessening the impact on city streets.

The project would also mean moving the athletic fields at the end of Walnut Street where the bridge ends on the Minnesota side and redeveloping the land between Grant Boulevard and Hiawatha Drive into commercial and residential properties. The dredge material could be used to build up the low-lying land, Durand said, and the athletic fields would be moved to property near City Hall.

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State Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, speaks during a House Capital Investment Committee bonding tour stop Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at The National Eagle Center in Wabasha. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

Haley said about 20 members of the capital investment committee were part of Wednesday's tour that included stops in Red Wing, Winona and Rochester. Those presentations included rebuilding a retaining wall in Cannon Falls, phase two of the Old West Main project and projects at Winona State University.

In Rochester, the group toured Rochester Community and Technical College and the Olmsted County Waste-to-Energy Facility, home to a proposed Materials Recovery Facility.

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A new materials recovery facility would allow recyclables to be processed locally instead of shipping them to the Twin Cities, which would cut costs and improve the efficiency of the facility. At RCTC, the committee heard about plans for a renovation of Heintz Center and other upgrades.

Other projects discussed included a change to the heating and cooling systems for downtown public buildings, an extension of the Willow Creek Trail, the next phase of improvements at Graham Park, sediment removal and trail safety improvements at Silver Lake, and construction of a new interchange at the intersection of U.S. Highway 14 and Olmsted County Road 44.

Haley said the projects in Wabasha were about safety and dealing with dredge material from the river.

"That's not just regional, it's state and international," Haley said of the proposed port facility. "We don't have a terminal to do that."

When voting on bonding funds, Haley said she tended to prioritize infrastructure projects, transportation and safe water. The Wabasha projects checked boxes for infrastructure and transportation.

"This is Day 11 of 14 (of the bonding tour)," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City. "There's a lot of factors we look at. Cost is one. The regional significance is another. The impact on the local area, the economic impact."

Urdahl agreed that the Wabasha projects seemed to meet those criteria. Still, the number of capital infrastructure requests far outpaces the funds available.

"We've received about $6 billion in requests," Urdahl said. "The (bill) will go for about $1-1.5 billion. Some projects make it, some never make it, and some will get pushed off to the next round."

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Wabasha Mayor Emily Durand speaks during a House Capital Investment Committee bonding tour stop Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at The National Eagle Center in Wabasha. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

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