On the Pioneer Press's Political Animal blog, David Montgomery reports in Congressional delegation weighs in on transportation fight in Legislature:
Three of Minnesota’s Democratic members of Congress are stepping in to a political debate in the state Legislature.
Reps. Rick Nolan, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz will hold a press conference on Monday with state Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle and advocacy group Move MN to urge lawmakers to pass “reliable funding” for state roads and bridges.
Congress also plays a major role in funding Minnesota roads, and its lack of action as the national Highway Trust Fund runs out of money has spurred states around the country to tackle transportation funding themselves. Nolan, Ellison and Walz are all in the minority in the House. . . .
According to his website, "Rick [Nolan] is the only member of Minnesota's House Delegation on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee." He serves on the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, the Subcommittee on Aviation and the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.
Walz served on the Transportation Committee from 2007 until January 2015. The Star Tribune reported in Rep. Tim Walz swaps Transportation for Defense, hopes to gain power:
Frustrated by eight years of inaction on the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress, is making a midcareer move to the House Armed Services Committee — a perch he thinks will be more productive and satisfying.
Walz secured his new slot earlier this month after lobbying Democratic leadership. On Armed Services, he will be charged with annually approving the military spending budget.
“Armed Services is, whether you agree with it or not, the one area where things get done,” Walz said. “Budgets go through, things happen.”
While Walz was not among the most senior Democrats on the House Transportation Committee, his departure comes at a critical time for transportation and infrastructure reform.
The federal Highway Trust Fund is projected to go belly up in May, a problem both House and Senate Republicans acknowledge needs to be addressed likely through more revenue. Transportation infrastructure needs loom large in Minnesota, where officials say nearly half the state’s bridges are in poor or mediocre condition and almost 2.5 million commuters drive across a deficient bridge each day. Gov. Mark Dayton recently proposed a wholesale tax on gasoline of 6.5 percent per gallon, along with a hike in license fees and a metro-wide one-cent sales tax increase, to help solve the problem.
In Rochester, which is in Walz’s district, Mayor Ardell Brede awaits a Hwy. 14 expansion from Rochester to Owatonna. He says the road is among the most dangerous in the state and should be four lanes the whole way. Commuters driving to work at the Mayo Clinic simultaneously face the sun and grapple with strip of highway that abruptly changes from four- to two-lanes.
Walz is familiar with all this, but angrily notes that for six years, “the Transportation Committee has done nothing … except argue about the cost of soda in Amtrak and debate about urban vs. rural transportation needs.”
He says he can advocate for stretches like Hwy. 14 without being on the committee. “Our point is that you can advocate for transportation on a broader scale,” Walz said. . . .
Ellison, who represents Minnesota's urban Fifth Congressional District, lamented underfunding of urban transit and bike projects in the 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Act.
Photo: Old photo of Highway 14 in southern Minnesota, via Star Tribune's Part 2: Hwy. 14, Highway of horrors.
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