Funding the transportation gap

Local officials are projecting a $128 million budget shortfall when it comes to high priority road and bridge projects. They are proposing a wheelage tax, excise tax and sales tax increase to bridge the gap.
Local officials are projecting a $128 million budget shortfall when it comes to high priority road and bridge projects. They are proposing a wheelage tax, excise tax and sales tax increase to bridge the gap.

Lack of state and federal funding for road and bridge projects means $128 million budget shortfall

By Melissa Priebe
[email protected]

Facing a budget gap of $128 million in funding for roads and bridges, Carver County is considering an increase in taxes on vehicles and vehicle purchases.
In order to fund high priority projects for road and bridge projects for the next 24 years, the county may implement an increase of $10 in the wheelage tax per year, a sales tax of ½ percent and a $20 excise tax on vehicle purchases.
Projected revenue for a period of 24 years puts the cost of high priority projects in Carver County at $417 million. The county would provide $94 million in funding, while other sources including turnback funds and federal, state and city funding would come in at $195 million, leaving a budgeted shortfall of $128 million.
The budget gap stems from several issues. In a recent change, the Metropolitan Council decided to distribute federal funds to focus more on transit, non-motorized transportation and preservation of existing roadways, as opposed to expanding and building new roadways. The State Highway Investment Plan also includes no funds for expanding state roads in Carver County, meaning zero investment in Highways 5, 7, 41, 101 and 212 within county lines.
In addition to the need for $20 million for pavement rehabilitation projects, Public Works has identified 22 high priority road projects that should be completed over the next 24 years. They include the East Waconia Bypass from County Road 10 to Highway 5, the Watertown South River Crossing, sections of Highway 5 in Waconia, Highway 212 from Cologne to Norwood Young America, and many sections of road in Victoria, as well as projects in Chaska and Chanhassen. According to Carver County, safety concerns have elevated many of these projects.
The transportation sales tax would consist of a ½ percent tax on retail sales, equating to a 50 cent tax on a $100 purchase, which would generate $102 million over the course of 24 years. A wheelage tax increase from $10 to $20 per vehicle per year would generate $26 million over the same time period.
By leveraging its own tax revenue to fund these road and bridge projects, the county could also qualify for more state and federal grants.
According to the Minnesota Department of Vehicle Services, 51 counties in Minnesota currently have a wheelage tax and 26 counties have implemented a local option sales tax including the six other metro area counties.
The decision process includes several presentations to elected officials in Carver County and opportunities for the public to learn about the plan and voice their opinion. The schedule began with a presentation at the Carver County Leaders meeting and a staff presentation at the Carver County Board work session on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The coming shortfall in federal and state funds prompted Carver County staff to propose a local solution.
In the next step, Carver County will be accepting public comments through the website at www.co.carver.mn.us/MovingCarver. Members of the public may comment on the project for a window of time, which opened on Thursday, Feb. 2 and extends through Wednesday, Mar. 15. After that window closes, three more presentations are slated, including:
• March 28 – Staff presentation in Carver County Board work session
• April 18 – Public hearing of the Carver County Board
• May 2 – Carver County Board considers whether to adopt the proposal
For more information about the funding proposal, visit www.co.carver.mn.us/MovingForward.

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