State transportation department officials were short of chairs and short of cash to meet the demand they found at a public hearing to discuss a new 20-year highway funding plan.
Staff at the Best Western in North Mankato fixed the chair problem by bringing more seating to supplement the 120 chairs already filled.
A solution to the money problem wasn’t as easy to find. Minnesota Department of Transportation leaders showed slides to area city and county officials, slides filled with numbers that suggested virtually all of the new money from a rising gas tax would be consumed by inflation, bridge repairs and preservation of existing highways.
“It clearly shows that we don’t have enough funding for these major projects in the next 10 years, probably not the next 20 years,” said Lisa Bigham, the planning director for MnDOT’s Mankato-based District 7.
The response to that, at least from many of the southern Minnesotans who spoke at the meeting, was simple: Then you need to reprioritize.
Read the rest at the Free Press. The paper's editorial board concludes in Confidence in MnDOT is lacking:
If there was ever justification to create a massive infrastructure repair program on Minnesota’s bridges and roads, it seems one year after the biggest infrastructure disaster in the state would be a good time.
KEYC-TV covered the meeting in Area Road Projects Could Be Missing Out. Go over and watch the video clip.
The New Ulm Journal reports in Plans for highways:
. . .The part of the plan that stuck in the craw of most people at the meeting was the Highway Department's $2.5 billion allocation to repair of replace 120 structure critical bridges by 2018.
The Highway Department stated that a Legislative Audit finding was "to meet its 'preservation first' commitment. Virtually all trunk highway construction funds will need to be directed to preservation projects."
Rep. Terry Morrow, D-St. Peter, disagreed.
"Putting all this money into bridges wasn't the intent of House File 2800, (the transportation finance bill that appropriated money for highway maintenance, debt service, local roads, emergency relief funds for the I-35W bridge collapse, establishing a trunk highway improvement program and requiring a study of value capture to reduce public costs of large transportation infrastructure investment...). . . .
Read the whole article at the Journal. It editorial board says in Greater road risks, fewer road funds:
Urban roads may be more crowded, but more deaths occur on the lonely country road. Which makes it hard to fathom why the Minnesota Department of Transportation continues to push rural roads down on its list of priorities. . . .
. . .MnDOT's formula is not serving rural Minnesota well, and should be changed.
It's great to see citizens coming out to public meetings like this.
Photo: In early April, Congressman Walz and the Highway 14 Partnership gathered at an intersection of the road west of Mankato to talk about the press need to improve the highway. Photo from the Mankato Free Press article covering the event.