North Branch Mayor Kirsten Hagen-Kennedy said to city engineer Lee Gustafson Feb. 21 that the council was “joyful to read our packet” of meeting materials because there was some very good news in relation to funding for street projects.
Gustafson explained that as part of the Highway 95 interchange project there was slightly more than $1.4 million in excess federal funds that could not be allocated to the work.
“There wasn’t what’s called ‘participating items’ (the money) could be applied to,” Gustafson said. “Essentially, there was $1.4 million sitting in a bank account that could not be spent on this project. There were several options that could be used to spend that money, but the city really had one option: That was essentially to swap or trade the money with another metro city that already had a federal aid project ready to go that was approved by MnDOT. That city was the city of St. Paul.”
Gustafson said North Branch and St. Paul came to an agreement to swap funds, which resulted in North Branch receiving a little over $1.1 million to spend on its state aid roads and bridges, which make up about 20 percent of North Branch’s thoroughfares.
“The beauty of this is that the city of North Branch gets two lump sums: one in 2018 for half the amount and the other in 2019 for half the amount,” Gustafson said. “It essentially just gets deposited in the state aid account. The city can use it on any state-aid-eligible project, as long as it meets all of the normal criteria that you would have to meet when funding a state aid project.”
Hagen-Kennedy reiterated the city’s excitement about receiving the funds.
“This is a huge gain for the city of North Branch, being able to do that swap,” she said.
Gustafson agreed with the mayor’s assertion.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been doing this for many years,” he said. “I’ve never come across that type of situation my 30-plus year career. It was actually kind of fun for me to get into a money exchange in this dollar amount.”
2017 street improvements scheduled
In addition to the good news about the unanticipated funding from the state, Gustafson talked about some upcoming 2017 road improvement projects that will likely be taken as good news by the city residents who live within the vicinity of the streets tapped for upgrades.
“We’re recommending five streets be overlaid in 2017,” he said. “They would be funded using funds from the state aid construction account.”
The streets to be overlaid are Harder Avenue from Lincoln Trail to 384th Trail; Hemingway Avenue from St. Croix Trail to 397th Street; Cougar Trail from Eighth Avenue to Forest Boulevard; and 400th Street from Elmcrest Avenue to Flink Avenue.
Gustafson said the estimated cost to overlay those five streets is $1.3 million; he noted the beginning fund balance from the city’s state aid construction account was a little over $1.6 million and that the city receives about $430,000 each year for the account.
“I say that because you also have a state aid project coming up in 2018, which is the replacement of the bridge road culvert,” he said. “That project is estimated to cost $350,000. When you do some simple math, you’re still in very good shape at the end of 2018 after doing the 2017 overlay project and the 2018 Bridge Road project.”
Work is anticipated to start on the five streets in June.