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Continued: As state money diminished, so did goals for bridge safety

The lowering of the goal in Minnesota drew little scrutiny from legislators on the House and Senate transportation committees, and appears in a one-paragraph summary in the state transportation budget document that was presented to the Legislature.

"The culture of lack of resources has always tightened and ratcheted down on the department," said Sen. Dan Larson, DFL-Bloomington, a member of the Senate Transportation Budget and Policy Division Committee. "That has required them to reassess.

"This isn't a bridge that failed. This is government that failed," said Larson. While Gov. Tim Pawlenty "had his head in the sand" regarding transportation funding, Larson said, legislators also were to blame.

Another Senate transportation committee member, Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, said she recalled a transportation budget briefing this year in which MnDOT officials explained whether they were meeting a series of goals related to everything from pavement conditions to response times for snow removal. She said, however, that she did not specifically recall the discussion regarding bridges, and said she was unaware the goal had been lowered.

In a MnDOT biennial budget presentation in January 2005, which begins with a cover letter from state Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau, the goal for bridges is listed in a one-paragraph entry on page 42: "Mn/DOT's 20-year goal is to improve the structural condition of bridges so that 65% or greater are in good condition and 2% or less are in poor condition," the report stated.

"The good condition bridges have been on a decline," it added.

In MnDOT's biennial budget presentation dated Jan. 22 of this year, the goal for bridge conditions is stated as being 55 percent. "With preventative maintenance, good and satisfactory conditions can be prolonged," the report stated.

mkaszuba@startribune.com • 612-673-4388 lblake@startribune.com • 612-673-1711

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