When it comes to transportation policy, Democrats and Republicans don’t always see eye to eye, but there is one area where they share common ground.

They want people to come to the State Capitol and sit in on committee meetings and chime in as legislators debate topics like how to pay for roads and bridges, how to fund public transportation and whether Minnesota should become the next state to pass a law banning drivers from using hand-held phones and electronic devices.

“We hope they do [come],” said Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, who sits on the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee. “Our doors are open.”

Unless you’re a regular visitor to the statehouse, going to the sprawling complex in St. Paul can be confusing, especially since proceedings take place in a number of places and not just under the Golden Dome.

Bills introduced in the House of Representatives come to life in the State Office Building, on Rev. Martin Luther King Boulevard on the west side of the Capitol next door to the Transportation Building. Legislation debates in Senate committees take place in the Senate Office Building on University Avenue just north of the Capitol.

The House transportation committee meets at 12:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Room 10. The Senate transportation committee holds hearings at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Room 1200. Bills that pass out of committee and are sent to the floor for a vote get their day in each body’s respective chambers on the Capitol’s second floor.

Now that you know where to go, here is how to get there:

Driving from the west metro, take I-94 to the Kellogg Boulevard exit, then go left on John Ireland Boulevard. From the east, use I-94 to the 12th Street exit. Drivers from the north can take I-35E to University Avenue, then go west; those from the south can get off I-35E at Kellogg, then go left to John Ireland.

Beware, many lots and ramps on the Capitol complex are reserved for state employees and legislators, so read the signs before parking your chariot. Public parking is extremely limited during the legislative session. Easy places to get in and out include Lot AA at Aurora Avenue and Rice Street adjacent to the former Sears, and Ramp F on Rice Street directly across from the old department store. Lot Q at Cedar Street and Sherburne Avenue is a decent option, too, but you’ll have to hoof it a few blocks to the Capitol. You’ll pay $2 per hour for these spots.

If you can get it, street parking on both sides of John Ireland, Cedar, Aurora and Sherburne is close to the action and convenient. You’ll feed the meters 25 cents for every 12 minutes. Here’s a secret: Free parking is available along Marion Street, a couple blocks west of the Capitol.

None of that is a worry for Rep. Frank Hornstein, D-Minneapolis. The head of the House Transportation Committee doesn’t own a car and commutes daily using the Route 6 bus and the Green Line. By letting Metro Transit do the driving and not dealing with parking and traffic, Hornstein says he’s “the most relaxed lawmaker.” And he said it allows him to see firsthand the need for high quality public transportation. Besides the Green Line, bus routes 3, 16, 62, 67, 68, 71, 75 and 262 serve the Capitol area.

However you roll — car, bike, bus, train or shoe leather — “make sure you are not distracted in any fashion,” Torkelson said.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.