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Editorial: Show support for Albert Lea’s bonding requests

Members of the House Capital Investment Committee were in Albert Lea this week to hear requests for state bonding funds from leaders with the city and the Shell Rock River Watershed District.

The requests included the following:

• $3.5 million for flood mitigation on East Main Street

• $1.75 million to construct a bridge over Albert Lea Lake and remaining path connecting the Blazing Star Trail between Albert Lea and Hayward

• $20 million for further planning and development of Blazing Star Landing

• $7.5 million for additional dredging in Fountain Lake

Many of these projects have been longtime concerns within the city and deserve to be selected for funding.

The flooding on East Main Street, a state road, has been a problem each spring when snow is melting and when there is heavy rainfall. It has led to closures as long as about two weeks, which hinders not only local traffic, but other business traffic as well. It has also negatively impacted businesses on East Main Street that customers cannot reach because of floodwaters.

The Blazing Star Trail from Albert Lea to Hayward has been in the works for more than 20 years after the state Legislature first authorized its existence in 1996. Though the Legislature has authorized various spending for the project over the years — and most of the project is complete — the last step, the construction of a bridge over Albert Lea Lake and about half a mile of trail still has not been completed. We hope this will be the year the trail can be finished. This will open up the possibilities to bring in bicyclists and others from around the region.

The Blazing Star Landing, site of the former Farmland Foods plant, is a piece of property in the middle of Albert Lea that has sat unused since the fire there in 2001. This is not going to be a quick project either, but once developed could be a driver of economic success with a combination of public and private investment. The city has stated no state dollars would be used for this project until private development is secured first.

The dredging is another project of big priority for Albert Lea that has been underway for two years. The funding would allow the sediment dredged from Fountain Lake to increase to 1.7 million cubic yards as costs per cubic yard were higher than initially expected when the Watershed District previously requested bonding funds.

Let legislators and Gov. Tim Walz know the importance of these projects for Albert Lea, not only for our residents here, but also in attracting visitors to the community.

The leaders of the House Capital Investment Committee are Reps. Mary Murphy and Fue Lee. They can be reached by email at rep.mary.murphy@house.mn and rep.fue.lee@house.mn. Murphy can be reached by mail at 343 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Lee can be reached by mail at 485 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

People can also fill out a form to show their support for the local projects at mn.gov/mmb/budget/capital-budget/public-comment.jsp. Walz will review the comments with Minnesota Management and Budget staff as they develop his capital budget proposal. The comment period is open through Nov. 30.