The push is on to get more money to fund Minnesota's transportation system, a need described as "urgent" by a new coalition of more than 130 businesses, associations and organizations that plan to lobby hard at the State Capitol this winter.
Last week, Move MN kicked off its efforts to make transportation funding a priority during the 2014 legislative session. The group's members say that current funding can not cover the costs to fix roads and bridges or meet the growing demands on state's transportation system.
The group is asking those who attend precinct caucuses on Feb. 4 to bring that message to candidates and legislators, said Hillary Reeves, spokeswoman for Transit for Livable Communities. Move MN is also planning a rally at the State Capitol in March.
"We need the legislature to know that this is a key thing," she said. "We keep kicking the can down the road and the cost goes up. We need to act on it."
A recent MnDOT report found that the agency will get $18 billion in funding over the next 20 years to makeover state roads. But the “Assessing Return on Investment in Minnesota’s State Highway Program” report put out by the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee said MnDOT will need $30 billion to keep pace with the state's growing population and aging infrastructure.
Minnesota ranks 38th in pavement quality, and more than half of the state’s highways and 35 percent of its bridges are more than 50 years old. Without the extra $12 billion, the report said that the amount of pavement in poor condition will rise by 13 percent and more than 200 bridges will be in poor condition. For motorists, that translates into slower travel times, increased safety issues and higher vehicle operating costs.
Minnesota is expected to add 350,000 new jobs by 2030 and the metro area could add up to 1 million residents by 2040, MoveMN says. With that, the group says there needs to be a "sustainable, dedicated revenue sources and must support new investments in all transportation modes, including roads, bridges, transit, bike and pedestrian routes."
Much of the transportation funding comes from the gas tax and motor vehicle registration fees and vehicle sales taxes. The last time the state increased the gasoline tax was in 2008, the same year a small transit sales tax was added in the metro area.
That money helped bring about the Central Light Rail Corridor and upgrades to highways 169 and I-494 in Bloomington. But that is no longer enough to keep up with growing demands, said Margaret Donahoe, executive director for the Minnesota Transportation Alliance.
"Minnesota has to many road and bridges that need critical attention," she said. "The transit demand of employers and commuters in Greater Minnesota and the metro far exceeds capacity. We need sustainable, new funding for transportation of all types to secure Minnesota's economic future."