Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Need for Hwy. 73 funding presented


Major legislative bonding money for state Highway 73 south of Cromwell was highlighted at a Friday, April 9 Minnesota State Senate hearing for the new state transportation bonding bill. Sen. Tony Lourey led a delegation from Carlton County that testified for the $12 million rebuild of eight miles of Highway 73 south of Cromwell. This is the first time Highway 73 has had a hearing with the state legislative leaders.

Moose Lake Councilman Mike Peterson, Carlton County Commissioner Gary Peterson, Moose Lake City Administrator Pat Oman, State Rep. Mike Sundin and Township Officer Dan Reed represented local activists for the Highway 73 project.

Lourey led the presentation by saying, "The work on the eight mile stretch of Highway 73 south of Cromwell was interrupted with the outbreak of World War II and it was promised to be finished after the war." Sen. Scott Dibble, chair of the Transportation Committee, interjected, "I guess this is now after the war."

Lourey continued, "Twice the upgrade was promised by the DOT in the 1960s and again in the 1970s but the work was never carried through; $7 million was promised and much of the planning work was done for construction in 2002 but the money was shifted to the Piedmont Avenue project in Duluth."

Commenting on the current proposal, he said, "Current estimates are at $12 million for the eight miles of road rebuilding. Highway 73 faces every day high truck traffic and is a main artery for business commerce between the Cities and the Iron Range and points west. The stretch of highway of 1930s vintage stifles economic growth in our region and is a public safety concern."

Peterson, co-owner of Villa Vista and Cardinal Court in Cromwell and involved in Cromwell Fire and Ambulance for decades, put together a Power Point presentation some time ago on the issues involving the present state of Highway 73 south of Cromwell. A handout was given to each of the senators on the Bonding Committee picking freely from that Power Point presentation. Peterson addressed the committee with the high points from the handout stressing this is the way to save lives on state Highway 73.

Dibble commented after Peterson's presentation the handout impressed him and he wished other presentations before his committee on transportation funding would present their cases with such specifics. Further points made were: Highway 73 is a 1930s corduroy road with some gravel and tar on top; Highway 73 is a key artery to copper deposits and mining in northeast Minnesota; Highway 73 is part of the infrastructure that is needed for the oil pipelines planned through the area to transport the North Dakota Bakken oil and gas.

Highway 73 was one of 30 proposals being heard in front of the committee that day. There was a long string of delegations made up of engineers, mayors, councilors, economic development administrators, attorneys, and others presenting proposals. Wishes ranged from sidewalks and county roads in the Twin Cities urban area, to overpasses in Moorhead, to dock expansion for riverboats on the Mississippi River, and major upgrades to Highway 10 north out of the Twin Cities.

Some of the comments were surprising to those coming from rural northern Minnesota. One gentleman from Anoka remarked, "We need more investment of highway dollars in our area on Highway 10 to solve traffic issues because our 1990s infrastructure is outdated for our needs." A Pennsylvania Avenue citizen activist from North Minneapolis called for sidewalk and curbing projects on that street. Instead of saying the area had lost tax revenue, businesses had moved elsewhere, and there were no local funding sources, she stated that the area had gone through a period of "disinvestment."

Where does the process go from here? The Republican controlled House of Representatives is putting together its own set of legislative proposals. It appears so far to be committed to a small investment increase in road funding. Gov. Mark Dayton, touting the current budget surplus, wants an ambitious transportation bonding bill and a long-term funding increase for transportation needs. The DFL-controlled Senate has its proposals. These different positions for legislation this year will be hammered out in an end of session conference committee marathon bargaining.

"What becomes the final legislation is not so much dependent on what you know, but who you know," Sundin said, "Close, personal relationships between members in the Legislature will have a major impact on the final results."


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