One of the talking points Tim Miller repeats and repeats and repeats is that Highway 12 west of Willmar is called "the goat trail" or that it's little more than a goat trail. We heard him say this in debates last fall and he told a reporter for the Star Tribune that "Highway 12 out here is in about as good a shape as a goat trail."
We've never heard anyone other than Tim Miller say this and having asked a number of long-term residents of the area, we've learned that they've never heard it so described either. (One young friend has heard the phrase used by relatives from the Bird Island area, but he's the only one).
Perhaps Representative Miller heard it from the same guy who told him about the prevailing wage rates in rural Minnesota.
While calling Highway 12 "the goat trail" isn't common usage in these parts, talk about working on it west of Willmar shows that highway construction (mill and pave) has been in the works for years, with final scoping on the work between Benson and Kerkhoven completed in February 2013. Work on the stretch is in the Governor's plan released today.
The question is, of course, how to pay for it.
Update: Former State Representative Al Juhnke, who served the Willmar area from 1997 through 2010, notes on a Facebook query by Bluestem's editor about the phrase "goat trail" notes:
It [Highway 12] is in pretty good shape west of Willmar and beyond. There is the 'old hwy. 12' that still exists parallel to the current route in places. That is goat trail worthy but, not the current Hwy 12.
Dairy farmer James Kanne added:
Well maybe Miller is taking the old Hwy 12 route, assuming his maps aren't any more up to date than his ideas.
Does this explain the nickname "Goat Trail"?
Now for something real: Willmar presentation on Highway 23
While the milling and repaving of Highway 12 (as it's known in these parts) is part of routine infrastructure care, the big project that's going to improve travel in these parts will be the upgrade of Highway 23 to a four-lane highway from St. Cloud/ I94 to Willmar as part of the Corridors of Commerce.
The project is in MNDOT District 8, which includes most of the counties in Miller's House District, MN17A. While the Highway 23 four-lane project isn't in MN17A, tying Willmar to the Interstate system with a four-lane highway will help open opportunities "down the road."
On Friday, Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Dibble is bringing his committee to St. Cloud and Willmar for presentations and a hearing. From a press release:
To hear from the public firsthand about the transportation needs in Greater Minnesota, the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee will travel to St. Cloud and Willmar on Friday, February 20. The visits will include tours, presentations on transportation projects and opportunities, and a public hearing.
Chair of the Committee, Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) is encouraging people to provide their input on the state’s transportation network, as well as the Senate’s transportation funding plan.
“Minnesota has over 144,000 miles of roads and bridges, stretching across our vast state. As Minnesota continues to grow, the pressures on our aging transportation network grow as well. By going on the road, our committee can see firsthand where the need for state investment is, and give us the opportunity to hear from the people that depend on this network every day,” Dibble said.
Details of the Friday February 20 tour itinerary are available below, all stops are open to the press and public to attend:
9:30 AM - Arrive at the Miller Center at St. Cloud State University for transit presentation
720 4th Avenue South, St. Cloud, MN 56301
11:30-1:30 PM - Public Hearing with testimony in St. Cloud City Council Chambers (media advisory available immediately following the hearing)
400 2nd Street South, St. Cloud, MN 56301
3:20 PM - Willmar Presentation on Highway 23 (Northern States Supply, 600 Industrial Blvd, SW, Willmar, MN 56201)
More information around the Senate Transportation Plan is available here: http://senatedfl.mn/transportation/
For more information on this or any other legislation, contact Sen. Dibble’s office at tinyurl.com/SenatorDibbleEmail or 651-296-4191. Members of the public interested in testifying should follow instructions here: http://www.senate.mn/schedule/schedule.php?ls=&date=02/20/2015
Senate DFL Video Explainer
Like so many Republicans, freshman Tim Miller has muddied the waters about where gas tax money would be going while insisting in a recent email to constituents that a tiny transportation package would take care of our needs for road and bridge repair and replacement.
UPDATE: A reader has sent a photo of the Miller constituent email, as adapted for a legislative report in the February 12, 2015 Renville County Register (no website). It's pretty astonishing, as Miller lumps all the taxes and fees--including the seven-county metro-only sales tax that will pay for transit--into one $9 billion sum so that 17A residents think our gas taxes are paying for transit in the metro.
Here's the item:
The Senate DFL communications office has put together a video primer addressing the GOP talking points:
Learn more about MNDOT District 8 (Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, and Yellow Medicine counties).
Maybe Miller confused US Highway 12 with Minnesota Highway 86 near Lakefield.
Photo: Highway 12 near Murdock. It's like, you know, a two-lane highway in rural Minnesota.
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