The Mankato area will receive a bit less than $2 million in direct appropriations from a massive federal funding bill if President Obama signs it into law.

The $1.1 trillion bill would fund large sections of the federal government along with entitlement programs such as Medicare, but it also includes more than 5,000 local projects. The Mankato-area has three — $1 million for a long-term effort to rehabilitate an aged railroad that serves Sibley County, $584,000 for a $25 million interchange project on Highway 14 on Mankato’s far northeast side, and $250,000 for a program aimed at boosting the heart health of New Ulm residents.

Al Forsberg, Blue Earth County public works director, was pleased that the $584,000 for the County Road 12/Highway 14 interchange project made it into the final bill because it was in the Senate bill but not in the House version.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Forsberg said. “I mean, you work hard for these funds.”

The county has completed a number of projects during the years by seeking funding from a variety of sources and building segments as money becomes available, rather than waiting for one massive appropriation to cover the entire cost.

“With time and with stages, we get our projects done,” he said.

The latest appropriation for County Road 12, combined with economic stimulus funding and previous federal budget bills, puts the county near the half-way point in obtaining funding for the estimated $25 million project. The project is aimed at easing traffic congestion on Highway 22, providing access to the growth area on the city’s northeast side and serving a proposed Wal-Mart distribution center.

The $1 million in railroad money would go to the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority, a county-owned rail line that is plugging away at a multi-year effort to bring its 95-mile track up to modern standards. The rail line serves rural counties stretching southwest from the Twin Cities to Hanley Falls in far southwestern Minnesota.

It has repeatedly been a winner in competition for state and federal dollars because of its economic development potential, but the project is still only about a third of the way toward the ultimate $67 million in funding required for a complete upgrade.

The $250,000 goes to the Heart of New Ulm project, an experiment in identifying residents who are at risk of heart attacks and instituting a community plan to get residents to adopt more healthy lifestyles. It’s part of a $100 million initiative by Allina Hospitals and Clinics that aims to create a template for heart attack prevention in other communities

Congressman Tim Walz, DFL-Mankato, sought the funding for the three projects as part of $105 million in 2009 requests. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar sponsored most of those projects and many others around the state.

A total of just more than $4.2 million was included in the final bill for the entire 1st District, which stretches across southern Minnesota to the Wisconsin and South Dakota borders. Other appropriations were for a child protection training center at Winona State University, a cancer research center expansion at Austin’s Hormel Institute and a street project in Rochester.

The second-term congressman also has a pair of requests for the Minnesota National Guard in a defense appropriations bill scheduled for a House vote this week, the last of 12 appropriations bills to fund the federal government. Six of the bills were combined in the $1.1 trillion bill that passed the Senate on Sunday and the House last week.

The local projects nationwide totaled an estimated $3.9 billion, a fraction of 1 percent of the total bill. But with federal deficits shooting to record levels, the bill received little support from Republicans — who are increasingly critical of Democratic leaders in Congress and President Obama about the red ink.

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