Governor Dayton never mentioned a "water czar" in his remarks to the Water Summit in Morris, but that's not a problem to for Jeff Backer, R- Browns Valley, whose dreamy presence at the event was noted in an earlier post, Republican guy who voted for Minnesota's buffer bill continues to grandstand against it.
Backer's metro congestion troll
Now he's trolling the governor--and his own constituents--in a letter to the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune, No need for water czar. Read the whole LTE in the Sun Tribune. One paragraph stands out for us:
Here's a word picture to explain a better approach. Traffic congestion in the metro areas took decades to streamline into the interstate systems we now enjoy and take for granted. The traffic congestion was not solved in two years by a "traffic czar" or traffic law proclaiming "let there be no congestion." It took decades of patience, careful planning and concerted efforts by the citizens to solve the problem. In the same way, appointing a "water czar," or hastily passing ill-crafted buffer laws proclaiming "let the water pollution be solved by 2018" is poorly conceived and will not accomplish constructive and lasting results.
What in the wild, wild world of sports is Backer talking about? Neither anecdotal experience nor traffic studies suggest that "[t]raffic congestion in the metro areas took decades to streamline into the interstate systems" in which we've managed "solve the problem" of congestion. Nor was the planning of the metro's interstate system a kumbaya moment in our state's history.
We have to wonder what went through Backer's mind--or that of the House GOP staff assigned to ghostwrite for him--to craft this drivel and send it to Greater Minnesota newspapers in our district.
Metro congestion still a thing
First, about that "solved" problem of congestion. Just last month, the American Transportation Research Institute (not a bunch of dirty hippies flogging Agenda 21, but the research wing of the American Trucking Associations) sent out a press release noting Twin Cities Home to Four of the Nation's Worst Truck Bottlenecks:
The American Transportation Research Institute today released its annual list highlighting the most congested bottlenecks for trucks in America, including four in Minnesota.
The 2017 Top Truck Bottleneck List assesses the level of truck-oriented congestion at 250 locations on the national highway system. The analysis, based on truck GPS data from 600,000+ heavy duty trucks uses several customized software applications and analysis methods, along with terabytes of data from trucking operations to produce a congestion impact ranking for each location. The data is associated with the FHWA-sponsored Freight Performance Measures (FPM) initiative. The locations detailed in this latest ATRI list represent the top 100 congested locations.
"Minnesota is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies, making it a major freight generator and player in the nation's economy," said Minnesota Trucking Association President John Hausladen. "ATRI's analysis allows us to target state and federal resources to keep trucks, and the economy, moving."
The four bottlenecks in Minnesota, all located in the Twin Cities, are:
- No. 45 – I-35W at I-94
- No. 55 – I-35W at I-494
- No. 71 – I-35W at I-694
- No. 88 – I-35E at I-94
"Trucks move 70% of the nation's goods, so knowing where our highway system is most congested can lead to better decisions about what highways and bridges need improvement," said American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear, "and it is our hope that ATRI's research will guide states toward improving these pain points in the supply chain so our industry can continue to safely and efficiently moving the nation's goods."
For access to the full report, including detailed information on each of the 100 top congested locations, click here.
It's not just industry flacks fretting about congestion in the Evil Metro. Last August, Pioneer Press staffer Marino Eccher reported Twin Cities road congestion hits record high and is expected to get worse, MnDOT says. Perhaps the problem was solved since then, thought that sort of kind of undercuts Backer's analogy, such as it is. Eccher writes:
It’s not just your brakelight-riddled imagination: Freeway congestion in and around Minneapolis and St. Paul was the worst on record last year, according to a new report from Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The agency’s annual report on freeway congestion said congestion was up from 21.1 percent in 2014 to 23.4 percent last year. That’s the highest number since the agency started collecting data in 1993.
Severe congestion, lasting longer than 2 hours, was at 7.6 percent, the highest it’s been in at least a decade, MnDOT said.
Congestion is measured as a percentage of the metro’s 758 freeway miles on which traffic is moving at less than 45 miles per hour. That’s the speed at which disruptions like crashes, stalls or overcapacity ramps can trigger widespread breakdowns in the flow of traffic, the agency said.
Unsurprisingly, I-35W, I-394 and the I-494/694 loop are the most snarled stretches, with the worst of it coming near the I-35W/I-94 interchange.
The agency said road design improvements, MnPASS express-lane expansion and active traffic management and information are all part of its effort to ease congestion — but warned that projected increases in travel, an improving economy and higher road construction costs are all expected to worsen the problem.
Given these results, Bluestem has to wonder why Backer (or the hapless GOP House staffer writer assigned to him) selected the process of freeway construction as the model for water quality efforts in rural Minnesota. If he think this is "solved" congestion in the metro, we'd hate to let our dog and chickens drink "clean" water determined by a similar process out here.
Not all neighborhoods had voice in building MN metro interstate
But there's more: Backer and his ghostwriter seem ignorant of the history of I-94 and St. Paul's Rondo Neighborhood, subject of the History Theatre current production, "The Highwaymen", explored at MPR in 'The Highwaymen' tells the story of St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood. The elevator version of the story is included in Wikipedia's entry for Interstate 94 in Minnesota:
The section of I-94 between Minneapolis and Saint Paul was completed in 1968. In the Twin Cities, the construction of the highway was politically charged. The highway was built primarily through many working-class and African-American neighborhoods. In Saint Paul, the routing of I-94 is set through and displaces the historic Rondo neighborhood, which prior to the highway construction was the largest African-American community in Saint Paul. By uprooting almost the entire neighborhood, the highway disrupted the vitality of the Saint Paul African American community. This history influenced the July 2016 blockade of nearby I-35W* [I-94] by Black Lives Matter protesters, to whom the freeways are symbols of oppressive urban policy.
One wonders whether Backer and staff ghostwriter would think Rondo lives mattered, if either indeed knew that the neighborhood had once existed. It wouldn't be the first time Backer made factual error about an urban population, given the invidious comparisons he's made between flood victims in Browns Valley and New Orleans or odd statements about urban transportation.
Irony sidenote: not surprisingly, Backer is a co-author ofHF0390, which increases penalties obstructing traffic to a highway or airport, a bill spawned by those freeway blockades.
Governor learned lessons; Backer spews old anti-Evil Metro talking points
Backer's representation of the governor runs counter to recent reports like David Montgomery's piece in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Mark Dayton has new clean-water plan — and new approach to farmers:
Gov. Mark Dayton is making another push to clean up Minnesota’s waters — and says he’s learned lessons from his contentious battle two years ago to implement buffer strips along the state’s waterways.
In a speech Friday morning to the Minnesota Environmental Congress, the DFL governor said he’ll propose improving Minnesota’s water quality 25 percent by the year 2025.
But he’s not proposing specific tools to accomplish that reduction just yet. Instead, he says he’ll solicit citizen input around the state this summer and make proposals based on that input in 2018.
“One of the lessons I learned with the buffer legislation is that it was criticized as a top-down, one-size-fits-all mandate,” Dayton said Friday. “I have my own ideas. I can advance those next year. But I want to let this process unfold and get citizens themselves engaged and citizens themselves feeling their own investment in the outcome.” . . .
That lesson is quite a bit different from the one Backer draws from Dayton, and it's ironic that the Pioneer Press article appeared on the same day as Backer's letter.
But then, Backer's learned that he can get re-elected inventing whatever he wants about the Evil Metro, which hasn't just solved its traffic congestion problem, but is always out to get him as well.
*I-35W was blocked by a separate group, primarily white allies, the Pioneer Press reported, while I-94 had been blocked the Saturday night before the weekday action.
Photo: Could this be Backer dreaming about a buffer law repeal during the farmers' panel after lunch at the Water Summit in Morris, his twin brother, or just another guy who looks ? Whatever the cast, it's clear Backer's asleep at the wheel when it comes to talking about Evil Metro area congestion or about the current details of Governor Dayton's water quality plan. Read more about the questions about this photo in Republican guy who voted for Minnesota's buffer bill continues to grandstand against it
. (Photo submitted by a former Backer constituent).
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