Mounds View rejoins I-35 W Corridor Coalition

At a Monday, March 25 meeting Mounds View City Council members voted unanimously in favor of rejoining the I-35 W Corridor Coalition. The city was one of the founding members of the coalition started in 1996 “to advocate for transportation system investments in the Corridor in order to reduce congestion and increase mobility for residents and businesses.”

“Years ago we noticed a lot of transportation and highway funding tended to go to southern parts of the metro,” coalition vice-president and Circle Pines Mayor Dave Bartholomay said. “We decided to get cities along northern portions of I-35 W together to bring awareness to state legislators.”

Bartholomay said any city that borders or is close to the I-35 W corridor between the Mississippi River just northeast of downtown Minneapolis and Forest Lake is eligible for membership.

Currently the cities of Circle Pines, Lexington, Blaine and Mounds View are coalition members along with Ramsey and Anoka counties.

At the March 25 meeting city administrator Jim Ericson said the city withdrew from the foundation at the end of 2008, because of budgetary restrictions and because the council felt the scope of the coalition had extended beyond its original goal of dealing with transportation funding and congestion mitigation on the I-35 W corridor.

Ericson said members of the coalition approached the city earlier this year asking them to rejoin for an introductory rate of $1,000. He said membership in the coalition would provide Mounds View with a voice and a seat at the table when vying for much needed state highway funding along the corridor.

Mayor Joe Flaherty told the council that if they voted to join the coalition it would make sense to join for more than one year in order to reap any benefits of membership that may take time to accrue. He reminded the council that when the city belonged to the coalition in the past the membership dues were in the $3,000 per year range -- noting that the introductory rate of $1,000 would increase the following year.

Council member Sherry Gunn said after seeing proposed plans for I-35 W she is convinced the city should be a part of the coalition for years to come.

“We need to be in it for the long term so we have a voice in what’s going to happen with the highway,” Gunn said. “Some of the plans could take away big chunks of property along the freeway. Some of the plans could mean an increase in Metro

Transit opportunities for our city… this isn’t going to happen in the next year… we need to keep our hat in the ring.”

Councilmember Carol Mueller agreed with Gunn, adding that the increase in traffic along I-35 W has had a direct impact on the quality of life in Mounds View.

“This major corridor is something we need to have a loud and active voice at the table for,” she said.

Having an active voice is precisely what Bartholomay said the coalition is designed to provide. Coalition members have invited cities like Shoreview, New Brighton, Arden Hills and Roseville to join or rejoin the coalition as well.

“You need to be united on transportation projects to get anything done,” Bartholomay said.

Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin said Shoreview belonged to the coalition when it first started out, but has not been a member in years.

“We would prefer to do any lobbying on these issues on an individual basis,” she said. “The coalition had more clout when more cities were involved, but even then we felt they were not accomplishing a lot of their goals.”

She added that times are tight for cities -- budgets are tight and funding is scarce -- but she said the city has built good relationships with local lawmakers.

Roseville Mayor Dan Roe said the council has talked about rejoining the coalition a couple of times over the last few years, but has decided not to rejoin mostly to save on costs.

He added that the focus of the coalition has changed over the years and he believes, like Martin, that the city can get the same, if not better results, by meeting with state legislators one-on-one.

New Brighton will reportedly be discussing the prospect of joining the coalition in the next couple of weeks.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

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