In anticipation of legislative transportation budgets, the Star Tribune created an interactive map highlighting the state’s worst bridges, and found that about 1,200 of our 20,000 bridges are classified as “structurally deficient.”
And, in conservative fashion, members of the Minnesota GOP provided us with a transportation budget that the Star Tribune says would roughly cover the cost of around 3.5 new bridges in Greater Minnesota.
More specifically, the GOP plan allots $187.5 million per year for transportation costs. That figure is more than four times lower than the proposal from Senate Democrats and Governor Mark Dayton. That’s because Republicans only suggested a “quick-fix” plan, rather than one that will actually stabilize the transportation needs in our state.
To put the low amount of money suggested by House Republicans into perspective, consider the following:
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has an ongoing project to replace the Stillwater Lift Bridge, which stretches across the St. Croix River. Experts said in 2011 that the 80-year-old bridge could “collapse at any time,” and one bridge expert who visited the bridge said he was able to push his arm through a pier.
The St. Croix River project is estimated to cost Minnesota at least $300 million.
If the project solely relied on state funding, imagine how ridiculous the Republican proposal of a mere $187 million per year would be across the state, let alone for major projects like this one.
Nearly every lawmaker agrees that our transportation system is in need of dire help, but it’s Republicans who are trying to set out a “quick-fix” plan that would actually end up costing Minnesotans more money in the long run as the inability to fix roads and bridges only worsens the problem.
Even Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt admitted that the GOP’s transportation proposal isn’t a plan.
The last time Minnesota raised transportation revenue was in 2008 (before that it was in 1988), suggesting that this isn’t something legislators do often. The current transportation situation in Minnesota is in dire need of improvement.
The plan proposed by Gov. Dayton and the DFL Senate would generate $800 million a year for our transportation repairs and budget, in contrast to the $725 million over four years suggested by the GOP.
State Senator Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, pointed out the need for a realistic, long-term approach to transportation:
When it comes to this infrastructure issue, I can’t think of another path. I can’t find another path that will lead us to the solutions we need across this state without some increase in revenue.
The GOP plan is even more ridiculous when you consider that part of their transportation budget expects MnDOT to find $65 million lying around in “savings and efficiencies” to pay for repairs.
Gov. Dayton’s plan is the most pragmatic and logical way to pay for something that everyone has a responsibility to fund. The reality is that, as the Strib put it, in an “eat-your-spinach” kind of way, 25 years of decay on our roads and bridges has put our state into the situation where we need a realistic plan that does a lot more than require MnDOT to shuffle around their already-strapped funds.”
The Republican plan to fix Minnesota’s transportation problems isn’t actually a plan. It’s a fraction of a bandaid that kicks the can down the road to worsening conditions in the very near future. Their inability to provide a logical path forward is troubling for the future of Minnesota’s infrastructure.