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Transportation chief: $1 billion surplus can't fix road problems

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Northtown Yard
A train leaves the BNSF Northtown Yard in Minneapolis, Minn. Sept. 12, 2014.
Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

Minnesota's transportation chief doesn't see room in the state's $1 billion budget surplus to improve roads and bridges.  

Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle told The Daily Circuit on Tuesday that the state needs $6.5 billion in the next 10 years to maintain Minnesota roadways. Rather than rely on one-time funding, Zelle said the state should establish a reliable revenue stream, such as a user fee, to pay for future road projects.

  "Having a sustainable funding source that can be counted on and then also dedicated to ensure that this is truly focused on transportation and not available to other sources... gives taxpayers confidence," he said.  

Zelle stopped short of saying he'd support a wholesale gas tax floated earlier this year by Gov. Mark Dayton.  

Many Republicans say a new tax is unacceptable and say the state should use existing dollars to preserve and expand roads.