Transportation is a hot issue at the Minnesota Legislature this year, and a lot of numbers have been bandied about by all sorts of interested parties.
As lawmakers debate whether — and how — to fix roads and add transit routes and bike/pedestrian paths, transportation experts at the University of Minnesota have compiled a database to fuel those quantitative discussions.
Called the Minnesota Transportation Finance Database, the project was part of a multiyear Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness project funded by the 2013 Legislature. Jointly run by the U’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and its Center for Transportation Studies, about $100,000 was initially set aside to set up the website and database, which is available at http://tinyurl.com/lj5rtxy.
Clearly, this level of detail is not for everyone. But transportation geeks interested in state highway and public transit system funding are likely to find something that inspires, informs and maybe even infuriates.
Humphrey School researcher Adeel Lari, who retired from the Minnesota Department of Transportation as its director of innovative finance and research, helped compile the data.
“I was always concerned about people who throw numbers all over the place,” he explained. “There wasn’t one place where data was available so everyone could look at it.”
Data on the website was collected from federal, state and local sources, and the hope is that it will be expanded upon. The idea, he said, is for researchers to use the data culled from the site to spur analysis on the impact of transportation spending on the economy and public policy.
A colleague at the Humphrey School, Jerry Zhao, used the data for a recently completed study comparing the return on investment for projects improving local roads and state trunk highways. Turns out, every dollar invested in local roads leads to a $1.25 increase in property values within a county, according to the study.
The public may now “analyze to their heart’s content,” Lari said.