Repair Our Roads Before Expanding Our Highways
March 27, 2009
The Transportation Advisory Board of the Metropolitan Council and MnDOT are debating how to spend nearly $250 million in federal stimulus dollars. Despite erroneous early reports that funds could only be used for highways, states have wide latitude to use the funding.
For a region with a highway system that’s larger on a per capita basis than Los Angeles, and with a history of a fallen bridge, the choice would seem clear: “fix it first.” Metro cities and counties have submitted lists of project ideas dominated by street, sidewalk, and trail repair. Metro Transit is facing a $60 million shortfall. Even MnDOT’s new statewide plan says they won’t meet targets for pavement quality.
Nevertheless, a proposal to fund two proposed highway expansion projects—an $84 million expansion of Highway 610 and an expansion of the I-169/I-494 interchange that could cost $170 million—could eat up the metro area stimulus money and even some future federal funding. No seems to be talking about how repair projects generate 16 percent more jobs, and do so faster, than those that build new highway capacity.
On March 18, the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) approved the Highway 610 expansion project and forwarded it on to the Metropolitan Council. The TAB delayed a vote on the I-169/494 interchange and other repair projects until April. The one year timeline for obligation of half of the metro area stimulus money should provide ample time for pubic engagement, but to date, no process for engaging the public has been identified.
Contact Barb Thoman at TLC if you want to learn more and get involved.