State assistance is needed to supplement local effort and the highway user tax distribution fund in financing capital improvements to preserve and develop a balanced transportation system throughout the state. Such a system is a proper function and concern of state government and necessary to protect the safety and personal and economic welfare of all citizens. It requires capital expenditures for public facilities, improvements, and equipment that are complementary, additional, and alternate to highways and are a proper object for contracting public debt and engaging in works of internal improvements under article XI, section 5, clause (a), of the Constitution. These expenditures are needed to harmonize state and local highway systems with the requirements of the federal interstate highway system, to avoid harmful environmental impact of arterial highways on urban, scenic, and recreational areas, and to provide auxiliary facilities for the convenience and safety of persons crossing highways and persons living and working adjacent to them. Capital expenditures of this nature exceed requirements for basic highway systems and should be funded from sources other than the taxes and bonds authorized in article XIV of the Constitution. However, the improvements tend to reduce the cost of maintenance of highways to the minimum required for accommodation of traffic, and the cost may and shall continue to be paid from taxes authorized in article XIV of the Constitution. Immediate improvement needs are reconstruction and replacement of key bridges and approaches to remove obstructions to the flow of traffic on state and county highways, municipal streets, and town roads and expedited completion of the interstate highway system in Minnesota by paying the state share of interstate highway segments, and a portion of the local share of interstate highway substitution projects when those interstate substitution projects are approved in accordance with state and federal law.
An additional need of the state transportation system is the acquisition and betterment of rail lines and right-of-way for preservation in the state rail bank as provided in section 222.63.
A Minnesota state transportation fund is created as a separate bookkeeping account in the general books of account of the state, to record receipts and disbursements of money appropriated from the fund to agencies and subdivisions of the state for the acquisition and betterment of public land, buildings, and capital improvements needed for the development of the state transportation system.
The commissioner of finance shall deposit in the fund as received all proceeds of Minnesota state transportation bonds, except accrued interest and premiums; all other money appropriated by law for the purposes of the fund; and all money granted to the state for these purposes by the federal government or any agency thereof. All such receipts are annually appropriated for the permanent construction and improvement purposes of the fund and shall be and remain available for expenditure in accordance with this section and applicable federal laws until the purposes for which the appropriations were made have been accomplished or abandoned. Upon certification to the commissioner of finance by the agency or subdivision to which any appropriation of bond proceeds has been made that the purpose thereof has been accomplished or abandoned, any unexpended balance of the appropriation, unless reappropriated by law, shall be transferred to the state bond fund and is appropriated to reduce the amount of tax otherwise required by the Constitution to be levied for that fund. No money shall be transferred to the state transportation fund from the highway user tax distribution fund or any other fund created by article XIV of the Constitution.
Before disbursement of an appropriation made from the fund to the commissioner of transportation for grants to subdivisions of the state, the commissioner shall certify:
(1) that the project for which the grant is made has been reviewed as provided in subdivision 4;
(2) that the project conforms to the program authorized by the appropriation law and rules adopted by the Department of Transportation consistent therewith; and
(3) that the financing of any estimated cost of the project in excess of the amount of the grant is assured by the appropriation of the proceeds of bonds or other funds of the subdivision, or by a grant from an agency of the federal government, within the amount of funds then appropriated to that agency and allocated by it to projects within the state, and by an irrevocable undertaking, in a resolution of the governing body of the subdivision, to use all funds so made available exclusively for the project, and to pay any additional amount by which the cost exceeds the estimate through appropriation to the construction fund of additional funds or the proceeds of additional bonds to be issued by the subdivision.
Procedures for application for grants from the fund, conditions for their administration, and criteria for priority, unless established in the laws authorizing the grants, shall be established by rules of the Department of Transportation consistent with those laws. Criteria for determining priorities and amounts of grants shall be based on consideration of:
(1) effectiveness of the project in eliminating a deficiency in the transportation system;
(2) number of persons affected by the deficiency;
(3) economic feasibility;
(4) effect on optimum land use and other concerns of state and regional planning;
(5) availability of other financing capability; and
(6) adequacy of provision for proper operation and maintenance after construction.
(a) The commissioner may make a grant to any political subdivision for preliminary engineering of a river crossing which requires extensive studies and evaluations to determine the environmental impact, location and design features of the crossing. A grant shall not exceed $300,000 for a single bridge project and shall not be used for the preparation of construction plans or specifications.
(b) Application for a grant shall be made by resolution of the governing body of the subdivision proposing to construct or reconstruct the bridge. A grant under this subdivision is subject to the procedures and criteria provided in subdivisions 5 and 6. A grant shall also be subject to the priority ranking established under the existing rules of the department if the proposed bridge has been ranked under those rules. No new rules are required for the administration of the grant program established by this subdivision.
Until June 30, 2007, the commissioner may make grants from the state transportation fund to a home rule or statutory city with a population of 5,000 or less and a net tax capacity of under $200,000 for design and preliminary engineering of bridges on city streets. Grants under this subdivision are subject to the procedures and criteria established under subdivisions 5 and 6, and may be used for 100 percent of the design and preliminary engineering costs. Total grants under this subdivision to all cities may not exceed $200,000.
The commissioner of transportation shall develop rules, standards and criteria, including bridge specifications, in cooperation with road authorities of political subdivisions, for use in the administration of funds appropriated to the commissioner and for the administration of grants to subdivisions. The maximum use of standardized bridges is encouraged. Regardless of the size of the existing bridge, a bridge or replacement bridge is eligible for assistance from the state transportation fund if a hydrological survey indicates that the bridge or replacement bridge must be ten feet or more in length. Funds appropriated to the commissioner from the Minnesota state transportation fund shall be segregated from the highway tax user distribution fund and other funds created by article XIV of the Constitution.