St. Louis County is home to 3,000 miles of roads and 600 bridges.  It's those bridges that are getting the spotlight as the county receives some additional funding for replacement costs.  In total, the county is at the receiving end of $281,000 in funds derived from the State of Minnesota's Motor Vehicle Leased Sales Tax.

The additional money will be put to good use as part of a two-year project to replace 21 bridges and corresponding culverts.  Total cost for the work is more than $17 million, with the projects on the docket for 2022 and 2023.

A combined effort is driving total cost of the work down.  The Public Works Department of St. Louis County has worked alongside the Minnesota Department of Transportation to bundle some of the bridge work - creating efficiencies along the way.  In total, 17 of the 21 bridges fall under the counties jurisdiction, while four of them are MNDOT's responsibility.  According to details released by St. Louis County, the average age of the 17 county bridges is 73 years, and seven of them are currently open - but with limited weight restrictions.

Even with the additional money, there is a budgetary lapse:

With the total cost estimated at $17.6 million, the county and MnDOT had sought a $14.1 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to cover 80% of the cost. The remaining 20%, $3.5 million, would be paid with local and Trunk Highway funds. However, while the FHWA chose the bridge bundling project for funding through its Competitive Highway Bridge Program, the approved amount was for $10.3 million, leaving a funding gap of $3.8 million.

To aid in the discrepency in funding, St. Louis County has sought funding from the state bonding bill; however, the legislature has been unsuccessful in passing a bonding bill this year.

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