Senate approves infrastructure bonding bill that includes funding for Rochester Airport, Highway 14, and other projects in Olmsted County championed by Sen. Nelson

By a bipartisan vote of 64-3, the Minnesota Senate on Thursday approved a $1.36 billion infrastructure bonding bill that would deliver funding for roads and bridges, clean water, and several projects in southeastern Minnesota, as well as local roads and bridges and other critical statewide infrastructure. The bill includes a number of projects champion by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), including $11.4 million for the Rochester International Airport, $6 million for a new interchange at U.S. Highway 14 and County Road 104 in Olmsted County, $2.5 million for Rochester’s Cascade Lake Park, and $8.7 million for the final phase of the Chatfield Center for the Arts project.

The bill also provides full, retroactive conformity to Section 179 of the federal tax code, a major reform that will allow farmers and other small business owners to deduct large equipment purchases. Section 179 conformity has been one of Senator Nelson’s priority for several years. 

“I am thrilled these important projects I have advocated for are included in the Senate’s infrastructure bill,” said Sen. Nelson. “They will bring jobs, help our local economy, and – in the case of the airport and highway 14 – make sure residents and travelers are safe. I am glad that my colleagues recognize how important these projects are and are willing to invest the necessary resources to keep our area thriving.”


The bill includes $11.4 million for reconstruction and improvements of runways at the Rochester International Airport (RST). RST handles the second-largest volume of passengers in Minnesota and is served by the three legacy air carriers, but existing runway pavements are nearing the end of their useful lives and require reconstruction in the near-term to allow for continued access to the Rochester community and world-class health care by air.


The bill includes $2.5 million for the city of Rochester for the Cascade Lake Park, which is one of the highest priorities outlined in the regional park system plan. Cascade Lake is a master-planned regional park consisting of over 225 acres created out of the reclamation of sand mining area. The proposed project includes an Amphitheater, the Park Pavilion, entrance circle, Art/Sculpture, and play areas that will enhance the improvements the city has already made. 


The bill includes $6 million to build a safer interchange at the intersection of Highway 14 and County Road 104 in Olmsted County. The busy intersection is incredibly dangerous due to high traffic volumes, high rates of speed, and challenging sightlines. The funding would be used to design, construct, furnish, and equip a new interchange at the intersection. 


The bill contains $8.7 million for the final phase of the Chatfield Center for the Arts project, which bolsters the economy and livability of the region for residents and visitors alike. The funding will help complete the rehabilitation of several buildings, including the 1916 former high school building, the 1936 auditorium building, and the structure that links the two buildings, as well as landscaping and other improvements and renovations.


$8.2 million will be allocated for this economic development program. The program provides grants to eligible cities for complex and costly public infrastructure development projects for industrial parks and to facilitate business expansions. Funding for the BDPI program is critical in assisting Greater Minnesota communities with business retention and expansion needs. Investing in this program will create jobs, increase the local tax base, and expand economic development opportunities that are critical in revitalizing the state’s economy. Eligible business projects include manufacturing, technology, warehousing and distribution, research and development, and agricultural processing.  


The bill provides a total of $700 million for roads and bridges, including $5 million for township road improvement grants, as well as $3 million for safe routes to school infrastructure improvements, $84 million for state road construction, and additional road and bridge funding for small communities, especially in Greater Minnesota – namely, $30 million for local bridge replacement and rehabilitation and $70 million for local road improvements. 

The Senate’s bonding bill totals $1.365 billion in general obligation bonds, plus $300.3 million for trunk highway bonds, and focuses on key infrastructure needs that will get Minnesotans working, preserve the state’s assets, and stimulate the economy.


The bill provides $100,000 in Housing Infrastructure Bonds and $16,000 for public housing rehabilitation.


The bonding bill provides $1 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve Program, which will help acquire conservation easements for stream protection and restoration, wetland enhancement, and flood mitigation.