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Oberstar lists local projects as high priority

Two Park Rapids projects are included on Congressman Jim Oberstar's transportation bill High Priority Projects.

Park Rapids Main Avenue reconstruction and Park Rapids Safe Routes to School are on Oberstar's list of 49 High Priority Projects. The projects total $112.63 million.

As chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Oberstar will be the chief author of the surface transportation bill when it is drafted and introduced in the 111th Congress. This legislation will authorize funding for most of the nation's transportation infrastructure investments for the next six years.

Although the vast majority of the funding is distributed to states and local governments by formula, a small percentage is held aside for members of Congress to designate for High Priority Projects (HPPs) in their states and congressional districts back home.

Park Rapids city administrator Bill Smith said the announcement is good news. Passing through Oberstar's office is the first step, he said. Next, the projects will be discussed at the committee level. If the project passes the committee, it will be introduced in a transportation bill to the House or Senate, Smith said.

The Park Rapids projects are:

-$2.44 million - Main Avenue reconstruction project.

Demolition and reconstruction of 10 city blocks of Main Avenue (from 1st to 11th Streets) and the resurfacing of the 10 intersecting streets one block on either side of Main Avenue. The Main Avenue surface is bituminous which was layed in 1979 on concrete that was poured in 1930. Portions of Main Avenue and the adjoining side blocks have deteriorated significantly. New sidewalks to be included. This corridor is the heart of the business district and experiences a high volume of traffic.

-$200,000 - Park Rapids Safe Routes to School project.

Following the advice of a recent school safety audit, this project involves the safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians along both sides of Helton Avenue between Highway 34 and Monico Lane, along Monico Lane from Helton Avenue to Highway 71, and along Pearl Street from Huntsinger Avenue to Highway 71. The improvements include sidewalk construction, crosswalk improvements, improved signing, tree removal, a multi-use path, and the development of a Safe Routes to School Plan.

"We all know of instances where dangerous roads are not addressed in a timely manner or critical projects cannot move forward because funding is not available," Oberstar said. "Giving Members of Congress the ability to dedicate funding to such projects allows them to respond directly to the needs of their constituents. Citizens and communities have the constitutional right to ask their congressman for help and the HPP process is an important tool for responding to those concerns."

Other area projects include:

-$800,000 - CSAH 33, Beltrami County.

CSAH 33 from CSAH 8 to CSAH 12 (4.4 miles). Reconstruct the highway to provide 12' paved driving lanes, 7' paved plus 1' gravel shoulders to improve safety, service life and load capacity of this roadway.

-$800,000 - Bicycle-Pedestrian Trail Bridge over TH 197, Beltrami County. Construction of multi-modal Paul Bunyan State Trail Bridge (PBST Bridge) over Trunk Highway 197 at the intersection of TH197 and First Street East in Bemidji, MN. Project termini will connect the east and west segments of the Paul Bunyan State Trail by providing an overpass over TH197.

-$2.42 million - Shingobee Trail Connection, Cass County.

Construction of multi-use paved trail from the Heartland State Trail through Walker connecting to the Paul Bunyan State Trail creating a 24-mile scenic biking loop. The trail will provide a safer biking environment for bicyclists of all levels eliminating the shoulder use a congested highway.