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Cosmos hwy. project gets $1.9M grant

COSMOS -- A $1.9 million federal transportation grant has been awarded for the reconstruction of state Highway 4 through Cosmos.

The grant was part of a $7.2 million grant allocation for 10 separate Minnesota projects that was announced this week by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Highway 4 project was one of the big money winners in Minnesota that was part of a nationwide competitive grant process that drew hundreds of applications. It was the only regional highway project that made the cut.

"We're very exi-ted. Any new form of funding is welcome," said Sus-ann Karnowski, program and project development engineer from the Minnesota De-partment of Tr-ansportation's Di-strict 8 office in Willmar.

The proposed project includes removing and replacing the road surface of Highway 4 for the length of the Cosmos city limits and narrowing the existing 80-foot width of the highway through town.

The leftover space will be used for a bike and pedestrian path and green space, Karnowski said.

As part of the project, the city of Cosmos is proposing to upgrade its water system and other utilities, she said.

While the $1,956,601 federal grant is good news, it falls short of the financial need for the project, Karnowski said.

The total estimated cost of the project is $4.6 million.

MnDOT's application to the Federal Highway Administration had sought a $3.2 million grant.

MnDOT and the city will have to consider options, like looking for additional revenue or scaling back the project.

"It's just a matter of working with the city to determine where we go from here since we didn't get the full funding for the project," said Karnowski.

Once the plans are completed, construction is expected to being in 2013.

The grant application was submitted in June as part of a new process for awarding federal highway funds.

In previous years, Congress designated some of this grant money for specific projects and the Highway Administration awarded the remainder through a competitive process.

Because the 2011 budget passed by Congress in April directed that all such funds be discretionary, the Highway Administration awarded these funds through a competitive process.

Even though the Cosmos grant is smaller than requested, it was the second-highest award on the Minnesota list.

A grant of just over $2 million was awarded to replace the I-35 bridge at Maryland Avenue in St. Paul.

The Cosmos project was close behind with $1,956,601.

The third project ranked on the list of grants was $800,000 for a state scenic byway at the historic Stewart Creek Bridge.

A grant of $407,400 was dedicated to assisting with growth and development of 250 under-utilized disadvantaged Minnesota businesses. The initial information didn't indicate where those businesses were located.

The smallest grant was $50,000 for improvements to North Shore Scenic Drive.

"Transportation investments like these will create jobs and improve the quality of life for Minnesota residents as well as strengthen the state's economy," said LaHood in a news release.

"The demand from the states for these funds shows just how critical the need is for infrastructure investment."

The Federal Highway Administration invited states to apply in June for federal funding from 14 grant programs.

Requests came from every state, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. -- more than 1,800 applications, totaling nearly $13 billion -- which is more than 30 times the funds available, according to information from the Highway Administration.

"At a time when states are facing serious budgetary constraints, these grants will help fill a critical need," said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. "Investments like these are immediate and long-lasting and will help create jobs."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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