2/27/2008 12:35:00 PM Gas tax override to boost Hwy. 60
It appears the 40-year Highway 60 expansion project is a major step closer to completion, thanks to the state's new transportation legislation and a controversial "yes" vote by Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mt. Lake.
The $6.6-billion package brings the state's first gas tax increase in 20 years, a 5.5-cent per gallon gas tax increase by fall and then increasing by another 3 cents. Of the total 8.5 cents, 3.5 cents would be in place until bonds authorized in the package are retired.
Included in the bill was a provision to upgrade Highway 60 from two-lane to four-lane from the Iowa border to Worthington. The package is designed to aid roads, bridges and transit.
That project is expected to start in two years, at least 20 years ahead of MnDOT's previous schedule. Once complete, it will leave less than 20 miles of two-lane highway on the 246-mile diagonal highway that runs from Sioux City to the Twin Cities.
Support for the transportation bill was split down party lines, particularly after Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed the measure.
However, a key to the veto override was a group of crossover votes from six Republican House members, including Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mt. Lake.
"A person who deserves a lot of credit is Rod Hamilton," said Sen. Jim Vickerman, the District 22 Democrat from Tracy. "That's a tough vote for him to have to go against his governor. It was a good vote for him. It made me happy to be working with him."
Hamilton told the Citizen Tuesday he feels good about his vote.
"The feedback from back home has been fantastic," Hamilton said. "No one likes to pay extra at the (gas) pump, but they recognize the need. The support has been overwhelming."