The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 15, 2014

Transport needs remain urgent

Why it matters: Transportation and infrastructure maintenance will cost taxpayers more if we continue to wait

When it comes to transportation and infrastructure, it seems legislators of every stripe can agree on a number of core facts: transportation is key to economic development, it is one of the very basic functions of government, and Minnesota is very behind competitively in transportation.

We hope this leads to a long-overdue realization among Democrats and Republicans that more funding is needed and that funding will pay off many times in our economic development and job creation efforts. In fact, if we don’t increase the funding, we will have to spend much more down the road.

Road repair costs go up by millions of dollars per mile every year we wait to maintain roads that don’t meet standards of scientifically arrived at maintenance and condition criteria.

A recent overview of state transportation needs and available funding shows in the next 20 years the basic needs of Minnesota transportation will be $30 billion and during that same time we will take in about $18 billion. But studies also show it will save us at least $31 billion in reduced congestion and commuter waiting times.

In its latest pavement condition report, MnDOT reported that state highway system will go from about 4 percent in “poor” condition to about 10 percent by 2016 based on current projections, more than a doubling of poor roads.

By 2022, the report states, the percent of state highways in poor condition will go to 13 percent, a threefold increase in the level from 2003.

The report also shows hundreds of miles of roads around the state that have a remaining service life of 0-3 years. Incredible.

Road funding is not politics, it’s basic economics.

Yet, year after year our elected leaders seem reluctant to tackle the issue. It’s one of their core responsibilities: to maintain the assets owned and funded by the taxpayers. And it’s a direct benefit to taxpayers.

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