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Minnesota Will Get $600 Million in Stimulus Funding for Transportation; Decisions on Spending Now Rest With State Leaders

February 24, 2009

Obama_wave_flag President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last week, providing a total of $48 billion for transportation projects. Minnesota’s guaranteed share of this money is pegged at nearly $600 million, which our state and local officials are now responsible for allocating.

“These funds offer state and local officials an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs that will build even stronger communities in Minnesota,” stated Lea Schuster, Executive Director of Transit for Livable Communities. “We’re calling on Governor Pawlenty, state DOT Commissioner Tom Sorel, and Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell to heed President Obama’s vision for change and urging them to spend these investments wisely.”

Congress provided no criteria to ensure that Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds are prioritized toward fixing Minnesota’s crumbling infrastructure and expanding public transit and bicycle and pedestrian routes. As a result, decisions about the kinds of jobs to create and projects to fund with federal stimulus funds are in the hands of state and local officials. This is where you come in.

Your mayor will have a great deal of discretion about how to spend some of the transportation-specific stimulus money locally. You can contact your mayor’s office and let them know what projects you think should be funded—or what shouldn’t be funded. It is also a good idea to contact city councilmembers and let them know your priorities.

On our end, TLC is working to ensure that our state leadership spends the stimulus money on transportation projects that reduce our state’s backlog of maintenance needs, improve safety for all transportation users, and provide transportation options that reduce household costs, energy use, and environmental impacts and also improve public health.

Here’s the nitty-gritty on the legislation:

  • $27.5 billion is allocated to the STP that, as its name states, can be spent on the state’s most pressing surface transportation needs. Minnesota’s $500 million in STP funds will help restore our transportation networks to a state of good repair if state and local officials give priority to fix-it-first rather than expanded highways.
  • Just under 30 percent of STP funds will be directed to metropolitan decision makers, who will have the flexibility to use the money to meet the diverse transportation needs of their constituents while helping to foster the clean energy economy envisioned by the President.
  • A substantial percentage of funding is explicitly dedicated to public transportation, to help meet growing demand. Minnesota’s share of the $8.4 billion nationally dedicated to transit will be nearly $95 million.

Nationally, $8 billion will be made available for high speed rail. This money will be awarded competitively to states to improve passenger rail service, primarily on those corridors where 110 mph service is proposed. Funds can also be used on conventional rail projects that relieve congestion. According to the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, one of the nation’s leading advocates for High Speed Rail, “The Midwest is very well positioned, with federally designated high-speed rail corridors radiating out in a hub-and-spoke network from Chicago to St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Madison and the Twin Cities.”


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Larry Raddatz

Dakota County Technical College offers several programs that support careers in high-speed rail, especially the RR Conductor Certificate. In addition, DCTC offers welding, diesel and electronics/electrical technologies that are in high demand in the freight rail sector. Our on-campus rail yard is an asset that should be utilized as we move towards commuter and high-speed rail.

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