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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.
651-767-0298 x105


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Larry Mack

Sorry but I have to disagree with you on the 169/494 project. That is a priority that has to be completed. Anyone who is forced to take 169 will be more than happy to agree with me on that. The backups are counterproductive and will be getting worse as more housing is built in the 169 corridor. Mass transit is great and I support it fully but in this instance we have to also remedy this situation before it gets far worse. I can agree that the 610 extension may be needed but it does not have as high a priority as either an LRT or BRT along the BNSF tracks near hwy 81. Speaking of LRT service perhaps the SW line should have a highter priority than the controversial St. Paul to Minneapolis line.

Sheldon Gitis

Expanding the 169/494 mess isn't going to make it better. Who's bright idea was it to replace the 8-lane 35W bridge mess with a 10-lane mess? How much money has already been wasted cleaning the mess from crashes on and surrounding the new 10-lane 35W bridge? Expanding the concrete on the overbuilt, unsustainable, poorly-maintained Twin Cities area highways, and building new highways like the proposed Central Corridor 35E-35W connection between Granary Road and Phalen Blvd., is not a good idea.

Cameron Slick

Both projects have the merit of being "shovel-ready" in that they can commence work soon. However, the only reason their is a problem at 169/494 is because of all the work that was put into the road south of their. MnDOT built a new freeway bridge, then made bypasses of Shakopee and other towns down the river, so that now it can handle a lot of cars, until you get to that red light. So the real problem their is land use and past infrastructure improvement. I heard that for MnDOT to just maintain the current system, gas taxes would need to be nearly tripled. Transit, rail, city streets, and trails are not going to get a fair deal on Minnesota stimulus funds.

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