Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Minnesota Alliance Goes for a Big Transportation Program

An alliance of pro-transportation groups in Minnesota – “Move MN” – has launched a campaign for a major transportation funding program. Unusually, the initiative (at least on the website) spends little time and attention on the “needs statement”: the parlous state of existing infrastructure and/or a vision of the wonderful things that can happen under a new program.  The campaign (website here) goes forthrightly for a 5% sales tax on wholesale motor fuels to fund the state program, together with a ¾ cent sales tax (on top of an existing ¼ cent tax) for transit in the Twin Cities metro region.  There is also a recommended earmarking of federal funds for bike/ped projects.
The Twin Cities transit piece suggests that the proposed funding would make it possible to build the region’s transitway plan in 15 years.  Excellent (although, why not 10 years?).
The gas tax piece, however, is less reassuring.  The suggested benefit is funding for MnDOT’s “Corridors of Commerce” plan, which consists mainly of expensive highway widening projects.  Minnesota has a continuing problem with this imbalance.  There are apparently still many influential people there who believe that pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into highway widenings will “solve” the congestion problem. 
Some of us ran into this problem five years ago with regard to federal Stimulus funding.  Minnesota chose to spend its biggest nickel on building a small addition to an already very extensive freeway and expressway network, rather than accelerating construction of a planned but largely unbuilt transitway network (see my slide from the time below).

At any rate, Move MN is a very well presented initiative to meet an urgent need, and I wish them well.  (More discussion on priorities to come!).

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