TRANSPORTATION PLANNING & SERVICES
The Mid-Minnesota Development Commission (MMDC) receives an annual grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, matched with the local tax levy dollars, to provide transportation planning services within the Region’s four counties principally for activities involving the state trunk highway system and to participate in the Southwest Minnesota Area Transportation Partnership (ATP) process. The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) makes recommendations to the Commission on these transportation activities.
Southwest Minnesota Area Transportation Partnership
The Southwest Minnesota Area Transportation Partnership (ATP) represents the twelve counties within the Mn/DOT District 8 Boundary. The ATP decides on which submitted projects shall be placed on the state’s four year Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) to receive federal funding. Roads, bridges, safety projects, transit capital, rail safety projects, and enhancement projects are the activities funded through this process.
Two MMDC Board members are appointed by the Commission to sit on the ATP Governing Board. Currently MMDC’s ATP Board members are McLeod County Commissioner Sheldon Nies and Meeker County Commissioner Ron Kutzke. Meeker County Engineer Ronald Mortenson has also been appointed by the Commission to represent the County Engineers in the Region. A staff person of the MMDC is part of the technical team of Mn/DOT and RDC staff that provides support for the ATP.
Up until the FY 2011 solicitation, when Mn/DOT, counties, cities and others submitted their projects they were put into a draft funding order by way of scoring projects on their technical need and by their regional significance. A whole new system was put into use for the FY 2011 projects. Funding is now separated on a soft sub-targeting basis between state and local projects. State projects will have a soft target of 76 percent of the federal funds, leaving approximately 24% of the funds for local projects.
Local projects are also separated into soft targets by such categories as road and bridge projects, local transit capital, local rail safety, local enhancements and local Highway safety improvement program projects. The largest portion of local dollars, naturally, goes to road and bridge projects. For road and bridge projects, local engineers meet together annually and will take turns in placing projects in the ATIP. The amount of funds available to a county or state aid city is based on a formula with such factors as miles of roadway and road condition needs. For example if a county has a project, they will slowly build up dollars in an accounting system each year, until they have enough credited to allow them to submit another project for consideration.
There is also a requirement to spend a certain percentage of funds for strictly highway safety type of projects. A committee made up of local engineers work out how to come up with projects under this category.
Transit operators have come together and have devised their own formula to determine which transit buses will be submitted to the ATP for replacement.
The federal transportation act requires that each state fund some enhancement projects each year. Transportation enhancements are transportation-related activities that are designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the intermodal transportation system. There are 12 categories of enhancements that can be summarized into three broad areas:
- Bike/Pedestrian trails,
- Historic transportation projects, i.e. an old railroad depot restoration,
- Scenic/Environmental projects, i.e. streetscaping,
- Water quality projects,
- Water runoff projects.
Statewide historic statistics show 65% of enhancement dollars are spent on non-motorized trails.
Enhancement Project notices are mailed out each year to local units of government on these. An application process has been developed to prioritize projects that have been submitted each year. MMDC staff are members of the annual review committee that recommend these enhancement projects to the ATP.
It is up to the ATP Board to determine the final draft of the Area Transportation Improvement Program by taking into consideration a number of other factors such as those discussed above, but also such factors as if a project is tied to another project, prior commitments, multiple partners, staged construction, and other factors. It is important to note that should there is at least a 20 percent match required on federally funded projects.
Transportation Planning Activities
MMDC is involved with transportation planning on a local, regional and state-wide level. MMDC assists communities with local transportation studies and assistance. The Commission has prepared a number of community comprehensive plans that include transportation as a major component. Staff has been part of a number of technical advisory committees for community or corridor transportation planning activities. Staff has prepared a county trails plan and has provided technical assistance for trail development. Staff has also assisted with a variety of other local transportation specialty plans through the years. The Commission also becomes involved with providing assistance to local areas that have formed coalitions to support needed transportation projects on a given highway/rail corridor.
When the need arises, MMDC prepares transportation studies for the region. Some past examples include:
- State and Regional Route Study
- Highway Jurisdictional Study
- Township Roads Manual
- The Effects of Highway Upgrading on Economic Activity
- Road Recording Manual
- Highway Functional Classification Studies
MMDC staff also are occasionally appointed to statewide or district level committees to assist with transportation planning issues. Some examples of current and past committee assistance include:
- The Western Minnesota Freight Study (current)
- The Intercity Passenger Rail Transportation Forum (current)
- Minnesota Guidestar Steering Committee
- Interregional Corridors Work Team
- Statewide Transportation Plan Customer Team
- Transit Plan for Greater Minnesota
Transit Planning and Assistance
In 1994, the MMDC published Transit Need Assessment Studies for each of the four counties in Region Six-East. Working with transit committees in each of the counties and the Mn/DOT Office of Transit the Commission’s studies demonstrated the need for county-wide transit programs in each of the four counties. The results of the studies led the way for Mn/DOT to authorize funding transit systems in each of the counties, all of which have been running successful transit programs for a number of years. Staff were members of a couple of the steering committees the Counties formed to guide the Transit Program startups.
As the need arises, the Commission is still active with transit planning activities. In 2006, the Commission coordinated and wrote the Mn/DOT funded Public Transit – Human Services Transportation Plan for Region Six-East. Staff has served on the Kandiyohi Area Transit (KAT) Operations Committee. In the past, The Commission has provided Mn/DOT with assistance in providing annual inspections of the Region’s 5310 Vehicle Program recipients. Staff has also occasionally participated in application review committees for the 5310 Program. Through the years, the Commission’s Aging staff has worked with the county transit programs providing assistance with obtaining Area Agency on Aging funding for improving transportation services to the elderly. Staff has also sat on a Welfare to Work Transportation Committee in Region Six-East that developed transportation programs to assist with getting people to and from work.
Transportation Advisory Committee
The MMDC’s transportation activities are guided by the Commission-appointed Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC provides overall guidance for transportation activities and makes recommendations to the MMDC Board for actions. Current TAC Membership is as follows:
Sheldon Nies (Chair) McLeod County Commissioner, MMDC Commissioner
Gary Danielson Kandiyohi County Engineer
John Brunkhorst McLeod County Engineer
Ronald Mortenson Meeker County Engineer
Marlin Larson Renville County Engineer
Mel Odens Kandiyohi County, City of Willmar Public Works Director
Kent Exner McLeod County, City of Hutchinson Engineer
Mark Larson McLeod County, City of Glencoe Administrator
Bruce Miller Meeker County, City of Litchfield Administrator
Dennis Peterson McLeod County Commissioner, MMDC Commissioner
Ron Kutzke Meeker County Commissioner, MMDC Commissioner
John Stahl Renville County Commissioner, MMDC Commissioner
DuWayne Underthun Kandiyohi County, MMDC Commissioner
Alan Fredrickson McLeod County, MMDC Commissioner
Dale Fenrich Meeker County, MMDC Commissioner
Delbert Wetzel Renville County, MMDC Commissioner
Jim Schafer Renville County, MMDC Commissioner
Francis Schweiss Renville County, MMDC Commissioner