TRIP study finds most MN road projects lack funding, most roads deteriorating.

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 26, 2014 - 8:20 PM

Transit advocacy group finds that few of 20 metro-area projects have funding ready or expected by 2019.

Only one of 20 important transportation projects in the Twin Cities has adequate funding and more than half don’t have any funding at all, according to a report issued Wednesday by TRIP, a national transportation research and advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

In its report, TRIP looked at 20 projects it identified as vital for improving the roads and bridges, mass transit, rail lines and facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians. It awarded green, yellow or red lights based on their prospects for funding within the next five years.

A $33 million project to re-deck and repair the Central Avenue bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis got the lone green light for metro-area projects. Five got yellow lights because funding is uncertain or a portion of their funding is expected to be available by 2019. Fourteen got red lights because funding is not forecast to be available through 2019.

The report also said only six of 30 critically needed transportation projects in outstate Minnesota have a green light; 21 projects got a red light.

“We call our report Project Green Light, but unfortunately we live in a red-light environment,” said Rocky Moretti, TRIP’s director of research and policy who presented the findings at the State Office Building in St. Paul.

Metro projects that lack funding include:

• Re-decking the I-35W bridge over the Minnesota River in Bloomington.

• Extending the Metro Green Line light-rail from Minneapolis to the southwest suburbs.

• Extending the Metro Blue Line to the northwest suburbs.

• A MnPass lane on I-94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

• A MnPass lane on I-35W from downtown Minneapolis to Hwy. 36 and then north to Hwy. 10 through Roseville, Arden Hills and Mounds View.

• A bus-rapid-transit line along I-35W from downtown Minneapolis to Burnsville.

Other states face similar issues, the report said.

Minnesota’s 138,832 miles of roads and 13,121 bridges carry 57 billion vehicle miles of travel annually. More than one-third of the major roads are deficient, with 10 percent rated in poor condition and 27 percent rated mediocre in 2011. Another 19 percent rated in fair condition and 44 percent were rated in good condition.

In the Twin Cities metro area, half of major roads are deteriorated, the report said. Eighteen percent of Minneapolis-St. Paul roads are in poor condition, 32 percent are in mediocre condition, 20 percent are in fair condition and the rest are in good condition.

TRIP advocates for an “efficient and well-maintained transportation system,” Moretti said, but it does not push for specific projects. Instead it points out “that there is a cost to the public in terms of congestion, driving on rough roads and safety.”

MnDOT will get $18 billion over the next 20 years for road projects, but a report late last year by the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee said that the agency will need $30 billion to keep pace with Minnesota’s growing population and aging infrastructure.

“Giving the green light to the many critically needed transportation projects in the Twin Cities area and around the state is going to require increased funding from all levels of government,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director.

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