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Bonding bill funds Willmar wye, poultry lab

WILLMAR -- State funding for the proposed Willmar railroad wye project and for improvements at the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory in Willmar is included in the 2015 bonding bill being prepared for a special session of the Minnesota Legislat...

WILLMAR - State funding for the proposed Willmar railroad wye project and for improvements at the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory in Willmar is included in the 2015 bonding bill being prepared for a special session of the Minnesota Legislature that may be called soon.
District 17B Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, said Thursday afternoon that the $179,999,000 bonding bill includes $3,770,000 for the proposed BNSF Railway wye. The wye would reduce the number of trains entering the Willmar switching yard.
Baker said that the $3.7 million will go toward what he hopes will be a total state contribution of $15 million for the estimated $49.83 million wye project on Willmar’s western edge.
Other contributing partners are BNSF - $16 million; federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant - $18 million; Kandiyohi County - $459,000; city of Willmar - $336,000 in right of way through the industrial park; and Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission - $35,000.
If funded, the wye project will involve construction of vehicular overpasses at U.S. Highway 12 and state Highway 40, and construction of approximately 10,000 feet of double north-south track connecting the northwest and southwest BNSF Railway main lines.
Baker said the initial $3.7 million is a great start and Baker said he will be working in 2016 to secure funding for the remainder of the state share.
The bill proposal also includes $8,529,000 for improvements at the Poultry Testing Laboratory. Baker said the use for the money - whether for new equipment, expansion of the current lab or construction of a new lab - has not been determined.
But Baker said the laboratory is critical for dealing with, diagnosing and advance testing for the highly pathogenic avian influenza and other diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu has killed more than 40 million chickens and turkeys in 20 states, including Minnesota and Kandiyohi County.
Baker said the lab funding “is really exciting to see our heartland of poultry here in Kandiyohi County will be the center of the best poultry testing in the state of Minnesota,’’ he said. “That will be a good thing for our poultry industry and our ag industry. So I’m very excited about having that come through. I was glad it could be put on the list to be included.’’

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