Is Minnesota's transportation system in decline?

Proposed SWLRT route
The proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit route could run along the existing line at Excelsior Blvd. just east of Highway 169 in Hopkins, Minn.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Some key lawmakers are planning to push for more transportation funding at the Legislature this session.

DFL Sen. Scott Dibble, the new chairman of the Senate Finance Transportation and Public Safety Committee, said on The Daily Circuit Wednesday, Jan. 9 that he'll consider new ways to fund transportation and transit.

Dibble said transportation is critical to growing Minnesota's economy and remaining competitive nationally. He said current funding levels are not sufficient.

"Or we could do a reasonable level of investment, really keeping a very close eye on the return on that investment - if we put a dollar in, how much do we get back in terms of greater economic productivity, greater individual productivity, and over what period of time do we realize that return on investment," Dibble said.

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Jay Cowles, president of Unity Avenue Associates and co-chair of the Itasca Project's Transportation Initiative, also joined the discussion. He said the Twin Cities will gain nearly a million residents by 2040, and they'll need new and better ways to get around. His initiative calls for raising the gas tax, tab fees and other sources to fund transportation and transit.

"And it really is a fundamental part of the infrastructure that is going to allow Minneapolis, St. Paul and the state to continue to flourish," he said.

Cowles says it's important for Minnesota to grow a transportation network that offers transit as well as improved highways and bridges.

A report from an advisory council on transportation is recommending a higher gas tax and more state money for roads and transit.

From the report:

If the decline in Minnesota's transportation system is allowed to continue through inaction with regard to funding, irreparable damage may occur to the state's economy. The consequences of inaction are clear and predictable.


Map: Comparing Twin Cities transit to other urban systems (Bill Rankin)

Big costs, little revenue: Panel looks at ways of paying for transportation, transit (Finance and Commerce)

Transportation Finance Advisory Committee report

America's crumbling transportation infrastructure (The Daily Circuit)