Manage growth or face gridlock in Twin Cities

  • Article by: ROBERT FRANKLIN
  • Updated: January 17, 2014 - 6:52 PM

If growth isn’t slower or smart, there won’t be enough transportation money.

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A few years ago, a national study predicted that, by 2030, Twin Cities-area traffic congestion would equal the then-gridlock of Los Angeles. That’s without factoring in snowstorms.

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The editorial page has addressed needs for financing the supply side of highways and mass transit (“State’s in a jam on transportation funds,” Jan. 11). But it’s also important to address demand, because there never will be enough money to keep current infrastructure repaired while serving rebounding new development. Bet on it.

I don’t have a lot of confidence that the state, the Metropolitan Council and local communities now have the tools or will to coordinate plans effectively for highways, housing, schools, sewers, well-water and such environmental issues as runoff in the seven-county area, let alone the fringe beyond. Especially since the Met Council has declared for years that all communities — no matter how rural — must take their share of a million new residents.

For instance, building hundreds of new homes in western suburbs along planned sewer extensions will clog already overburdened Hwy. 55, which is slated for a major upgrade but won’t have construction funding for years.

A slower-growth strategy seems wise. Channel growth more effectively along existing viable road and rail corridors or near job centers or in vacant inner-city land. Tax new developments to help pay for highway expansion (as they do for parks). Stop building those developments without the prospect of adequate roads or rail to serve them. Slow down sewer expansion. Don’t subsidize market-rate housing. Focus more development outstate, where there’s more room to grow. Coordinate planning with fringe counties.

A few years ago, a national study predicted that, by 2030, Twin Cities-area traffic congestion would equal the then-gridlock of Los Angeles. Congestion is indeed a quality-of-life issue, affecting safety, health, productivity, business viability, the environment, families and community involvement. More funding alone won’t solve the problem.

Robert Franklin, a former reporter and editor at the Star Tribune, lives in Medina.

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