The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 5, 2014

Our View: Roads more important now

The Mankato Free Press

---- — It’s somewhat ironic that state elected leaders already have noted the existence of an election year will quash some important discussions such as transportation infrastructure.

We always thought election years were prime years to discuss important topics. Voters are tuned in, and they expect to hear the best ideas and solutions to the state’s problems.

Clearly, transportation infrastructure and road funding stands as an issue that should be near the top of the priority list for Democrats and Republicans alike.

While Gov. Mark Dayton and some Democrats suggest they are disinclined to discuss road funding, and in particular raising a gas or other tax in an election year, Republicans seem to be rejecting the spending outright. The leading Republican-favoring business group in Minnesota, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, has argued already that Minnesota doesn’t need more road funding.

They’ve said they would like the Minnesota Department of Transportation to conduct some reform that was agreed to a few years ago before we spend more on transportation. We’re not sure what that reform is, but MnDOT says there is a $12 billion gap between revenues and road maintenance needs.

MnDOT notes 50 percent of Minnesota road pavements are more than 50 years old and 35 percent of bridges are that old, with 9 percent being deficient.

MnDOT estimates in the next 20 years, congestion may increase 30 percent per person. The longer we wait to do something about deteriorating roads, the more it will cost. This seems to be lost on those who would rather wait until next year to do something or those who would rather do nothing.

There are too many transportation issues to wait for the convenience of easier political decisions. The governor and Democrats need to lead on this issue. If Republicans and their supporters at the Minnesota Chamber have problems with MnDOT, they should point them out and suggest solutions.

Now is not the time to wait on transportation.