Crosstown financing plan stalls

MnDOT unsure of when construction to begin

The Crosstown highway reconstruction project is on indefinite hold while the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), members of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration and construction contractors try to find an alternative to the state's controversial financing plan.

The $250 million construction of a new interchange at Crosstown Hwy. 62 and Interstate Hwy. 35W was to begin in August and be completed in two years, but all of those plans are up in the air after no contractors bid to land the project.

The state had proposed that contractors front over $90 million in construction costs until federal funds were received by the state.

MnDOT spokesperson Jeanne Aamodt said, &#8220The governor would like us to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to move the project forward.”

She said state officials will sit down with contractors to try to find out why no bids were submitted.

She said the governor and MnDOT officials hold out hope that construction might still begin this year.

&#8220There's hope,” Aamodt said. &#8220It's a little early to tell how much hope there might be.”

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL 60B) said he's not surprised that no bids were received for the job. &#8220This was a predictable outcome. It was really the logical extension of the failed Pawlenty transportation funding philosophy, which is we will not pay as we go, we will not fund the system adequately. The policy is literally and figuratively bankrupt.”

He said the genesis of this latest delay in an already much-delayed project is to be found in Pawlenty's veto last year of a $7.8 billion transportation funding package that included a 10 cent gasoline tax.

Scott Peterson, director of the Minnesota Office of Finance, said federal funding for transportation projects has been delayed by two years and that the state will receive less than anticipated when the Crosstown reconstruction was planned.

Aamodt said MnDOT officials were somewhat surprised at the lack of bidding on the Crosstown project. &#8220We were slightly encouraged; we thought, we anticipated that we might get one or two bids, but then it didn't happen.”

She said MnDOT hopes to come back with a new financing plan in &#8220a couple of months.”