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Long-term plan sought for failing infrastructure

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If you have driven across the state this summer, you have first-hand knowledge of deteriorating conditions on Minnesota's interstate and state highway system. Nationally, poor highway surface conditions are increasingly becoming the cause for many accidents and injuries.

The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation commissioned a study on the impact of deficient highway surfaces and reported alarming statistics on costs associated with our nation's crumbling infrastructure. According to the study titled "On a Crash Course: The Dangers and Health Costs of Deficient Roadway,s" traffic accidents and fatalities cost us nearly $20 billion in medical costs, $46 billion in lost productivity, $52 billion in property damage and $99 billion in quality of life costs. The study also concluded that American businesses shoulder an extra $22 billion annually because of accidents caused by our crumbling roadways.

These alarming numbers are simply unacceptable. Minnesota business leaders, ag leaders and those interested in successful state commerce need to get involved in the political process to make our highways safer and more efficient.

American Reinvestment and Recovery Act dollars have pumped millions into state DOTs for repairs and new construction projects. These funds have put thousands of people back to work. However those funds are only a short-time fix and a more long-term solution is needed to maintain our failing infrastructure.

Right now in the U.S. House a bill has been authored by Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 is a six-year, $500 billion plan to replace the current highway reauthorization bill that is set to expire Sept. 30.

Highway reauthorization is taking a back seat to many other measures, but it shouldn't be. Passing a highway reauthorization bill creates jobs and promotes economic recovery. More importantly, safe highways and bridges should be a priority, because the safety of our families is the highest priority.

It is a good time to bring this issue to the forefront.

I urge Sens. Klobuchar and Franken to be a voice for every Minnesotan who is traveling our state's byways. Please take a strong lead and support Chairman Oberstar's bill in the Senate and make the safety of our families and the rebuilding of America's infrastructure your top priority.

Doug Muyres

President

Knife River Materials - Northern Minnesota Division

Bemidji

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