I have always been struck by the audacious level of disrespect shown by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to the citizens who drive the streets and highways of the Twin Cities in the way it manages road-construction projects. From simultaneous major projects on parallel traffic arteries (Interstate 494 and Hwy. 100) to almost weekly closures of major roads, it seems that the impact on the driving public is never taken into consideration. The announcement in the Star Tribune recently that Hwy. 169 will be closed for an entire year starting in 2016 takes that disrespect to a whole new level.

I lived in Chicago for 25 years, and my travels have taken me to every major city in America, and I can tell you that no one else does it like this. They figure out how to maintain some degree of traffic flow while completing the construction safely and in a timely manner. Maybe it is cheaper and easier to close the road for a year, but at what cost to the public? At what cost to the movement of goods and services? At what cost in environmental impact from thousands of idling cars caught in crawling traffic on the remaining roads? And let’s not even mention the first 5-inch snowfall that hits at the evening rush hour.

C’mon, MnDOT, you can do better. The people of the Twin Cities deserve better.

Bob Adomaitis, Eden Prairie

• • •

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be sending a letter to the hometown newspaper in praise of a road-construction project. However, I have to say that whoever is building the Hwy. 100 expansion between Excelsior Blvd. and Interstate 394 is doing a bang-up job. The crews are out there every single day, from early in the morning until dinnertime at least. There’s no one leaning on a shovel or eating doughnuts; everyone seems to have a job to do and is going at it with gusto.

I don’t believe it’s road construction per se that makes motorists angry; it’s when there is little or no progress after weeks (or months) of putting up the orange cones, or when lane restrictions stretch far beyond where the crews are actually working, or when there appear to be too few workers and machines for the task at hand.

None of these things has happened on this stretch of highway, and the progress to date has been remarkable.

Steve Aldrich, St. Louis Park

 

PROTESTERS

Walker visit shut ’em down? Wrong, even if done politely

The Star Tribune reported that protesters at an appearance by Wisconsin Gov. and presidential candidate Scott Walker “left quietly at the request of a handful of police officers.” (“Walker touts health plan at Brooklyn Center stop,” Aug. 19.) Why the request? Were the protesters on private property, or does the Bill of Rights just not apply in Brooklyn Center? Earlier this month, several so-called “oathkeepers” could appear displaying firearms at a protest in Ferguson, Mo., in a very incendiary situation and be upheld by police in their “right” to so demonstrate. But in Hennepin County, Minn., the traditional practice of peaceful protest — not even heckling, just picketing — isn’t permitted to detract from a Republican candidate’s orchestrated promotional event. It’s another symptom as the U.S. slides closer and closer toward overt fascism, justified under the elastic rubric of “security.”

Oliver Steinberg, St. Paul

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

What will it take to mitigate? Market forces? Personal actions?

I found Paul Douglas’ weather column on Aug. 19 (“Aug-tober”) a trifle nettling. Cleverly tucked away in the last sentence of paragraph four — amid otherwise edifying explanations of standard deviating climatic events — is this revealing nugget: “I’m still optimistic the markets will come up with the solutions we’re going to need to adapt and thrive.”

From this I understand Mr. Douglas to believe the answers to global climate change are best left to private business and capital markets, not the government. Is this his back-page rebuttal to a Page A4 article on the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement Tuesday of a new federal rule “requiring the nation’s oil and gas industry to cut emissions of methane, as part of an expanding and increasingly aggressive effort to combat climate change”?

Paul is no climate-change denier; on the contrary, he speaks openly about the reality of climate change, unlike some of his political cohorts. Certainly, there might be many ways for markets to come to the climate’s rescue, and I’d like to hear them, but I’m not convinced that if we simply wait for the markets to “self-correct” on climate change we’d be any better off than with smart federal regulations.

Steve Goecke, Minnetonka

• • •

Michael Gerson’s Aug. 16 column “Take it from Bill Gates: We need a miracle” details Gates’ claim that enormous funding will be required to head off the catastrophic climate impacts of carbon-dioxide emissions. While the point is well-taken, Gates also asserts that behavior change — the actions of people to reduce energy consumption — will be useful, but “not even in the ballpark of responding to this need.”

Mr. Gates undervalues the possible benefit of wise choices by large fractions of the consuming public. A prime example relates to contributions of methane by animals to the inventory of greenhouse-gas emissions. Methane is 25 times as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping reflected heat within the atmosphere over a 100-year period. The U.S. Energy Information Administration states that the digestive fermentation and manure of domestic livestock — including cattle, sheep, goats and buffalo — released 29 percent of all U.S. emissions of methane in 2009. This contribution was nearly three-fourths as large as the combined emissions from energy production, distribution and use.

We’ve all heard of “meatless Mondays,” but imagine the emissions upshot of the population transitioning to meatless Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays — maybe even Saturdays! Let’s pull out all the stops in mitigating climate change.

Stan Sattinger, Minneapolis

 

TRIBAL SCHOOLS

Building progress is made, but not where’s it’s most needed

On the second page of the Minnesota section Aug. 19, I read in amazement: “Red Lake completes $21M building project.”

What was wrong with this picture? Inexplicably, funds were distributed for an efficient, state-of-the-art college that was built for tribal members on the reservation, but that has left primary and secondary schools in the dust.

Where are the priorities? According to the article, the project was built with two separate low-interest loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development program. Good, but that doesn’t explain how others can get their hands on money to shore up the poor conditions of primary and secondary schools on the reservation, particularly the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig school, for example. Eugene McArthur, the tribal college development director, discussed his new college, stating that “the project is the first step toward keeping people employed and help businesses meet their needs.” I disagree. The first step is to boldly improve the conditions of the very first schools young tribal members attend.

Intuitively, children can tell when they are not a priority. They are easily distracted when hungry, cold or bothered by noises in the next classroom. The new college in Red Lake simply puts the cart before the horse. Why is it so difficult to find the money we need to fix our primary and secondary schools? After all, we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Sharon E. Carlson, Andover