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Transportation members updated on state’s infrastructure present and future needs

House Photography file photo

The House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee on Thursday was given an update on the state’s transportation infrastructure and the news was mixed.

The good news is that over the next four years the state will meet the targets set in its transportation improvement program for roads and bridges that are part of Minnesota’s trunk highway system. But officials say they will need additional funding if they are to keep pace with needed improvements by 2030.

Philip Schaffner, director of statewide planning for the Department of Transportation, said there are more than 800 bridges in need of repair or replacement during the next decade that are not currently included in the department’s 10-year plan.

The outlook is similar for roads in the state system. Things are on track in the near-term but the future is less certain.

“We do start to have concerns as we start to head to the end of our 10-year highway investment plan,” Schaffner said. “Absent additional funding we will be in unprecedented territory for the mileage of our highways in poor condition.”

 

Cities and counties

Roads and bridges maintained by cities and counties are in more urgent need of attention.

Winona County Engineer David Kramer was one of several local officials who spoke about the necessity of additional funding, saying recent financial aid initiatives from the state have not helped his county catch up with its deferred road and bridge needs but they are “backsliding more slowly.”

House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee 01/28/21

Clinton Rogers, city administrator of Janesville, submitted a letter to members urging the committee to fund the Small Cities Assistance Program, saying his city received about $18,000 annually from the program in the past and used it for basic street repairs such as patches, filling cracks and overlays.

“Even though the funding was a small portion of city revenue, it certainly helped in our efforts,” Rogers wrote. “Our residents could see the direct impact this funding did for them. By providing a dedicated, sustainable funding program, small cities can address these needs.”

The assistance program does not have a dedicated funding source, which means the more than 700 Minnesota cities with a population less than 5,000 the program was meant to help have to wait and see each year how much money, if any, they will receive.

Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber said her city receives no municipal state aid and no local government aid. The cost of all road maintenance and any improvements fall solely on the city’s taxpayers.

“The Small Cities Assistance Account was extremely helpful … but it does need a consistent source of funding so we can plan for maintenance and make sure none of our roads fall apart anymore,” McComber said. “The lack of funding obviously leads to disrepair.”

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), the committee chair, said there is already legislation proposed to address the issue, and the committee should hear it in late February or early March.

“This is something we’re very committed to,” Hornstein said.


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