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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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Thursday, October 4, 2007
To the Editor, Troubling questions have been raised about the Minnesota Department of Transportation's ability to effectively manage our state's critical and unmet transportation needs. Last week we learned that bridge reconstruction cost estimates have soared by 57%, from initial projections of $250 million to almost $400 million. On top of that, MnDOT estimates that more than 1/3 of our state roads are too far-gone to be fixed, and that it will take almost $2 billion a year to address the unmet construction and maintenance needs in our existing roads and bridges. Under Governor Pawlenty and Commissioner Carol Molnau, major road construction projects have been delayed or postponed, including the Devil's Triangle, the Wacouta Bridge and the Crosstown Commons; minor snowstorms have snarled traffic because snowplow services were cut; a major bridge deemed structurally deficient years ago collapsed; the highest bidder with the longest construction timeline won the bridge reconstruction contract, and the losing bidders are suing the state; and MnDOT's building is falling down. The state Trunk Highway Fund that provides the bulk of state road and bridge construction is nearly broke. Even before the bridge fell, projections indicated it would end the fiscal year with a $75 million deficit. If legislators comply with MnDOT's unprecedented request for spending authority to cover the far-from-certain federal funding for bridge reconstruction and Congress doesn't deliver, MnDOT could be short of cash as early as next month. Clearly, Minnesota needs competent leadership in the public works agency charged with maintaining our state's infrastructure, economic competitiveness and public safety. And we need leadership from this Governor to ensure that MnDOT has the resources it needs to do its job. Sincerely, Michael Nelson State Representative District 46A