MnDOT makes historic investments throughout state
If you listen to the blathering of a few DFL legislators the past few weeks, you would swear the Minnesota Department of Transportation has shut it doors, stopped building or maintaining roads anywhere in the state, and sits destitute on a corner...
If you listen to the blathering of a few DFL legislators the past few weeks, you would swear the Minnesota Department of Transportation has shut it doors, stopped building or maintaining roads anywhere in the state, and sits destitute on a corner with a tin cup in its hands.
While such Chicken Little, sky-is-falling nonsense is common in election years, it does little to provide Minnesotans the facts about transportation funding in our great state.
Since taking office in 2003, the Pawlenty/Molnau administration has delivered three consecutive years of record-setting investment in highway construction projects throughout the state, valued at approximately $2.5 billion. This unprecedented level of highway and transit investment has been fueled by the nearly $900 million Pawlenty/Molnau transportation financing initiative passed by the Legislature in 2003.
Minnesota, like all states, has faced challenges the past two years in managing the funding of major transportation improvements. These challenges are largely a result of a two-year delay in passage of federal transportation funding legislation, failure of the new federal legislation to live up to its promise, and escalating construction costs in the wake of several major natural disasters affecting the country.
In contrast to the DFL's tale of woe, and what Minnesotans should know, is the tremendous success and accomplishment MnDOT and the Pawlenty/Molnau administration have achieved in managing these challenges and delivering Minnesota's transportation program nearly intact in both greater Minnesota and the metro area.
And some DFLers would have you believe that MnDOT is deliberately shortchanging greater Minnesota when it comes to state transportation investments. As a legislator from greater Minnesota who has long advocated for transportation investments in all corners of our state, the DFL charge simply doesn't stand up to the facts.
In years 2003 though 2005, MnDOT's highway construction program has averaged 145 projects in greater Minnesota and 65 projects in the metro area annually. In those years, greater Minnesota projects accounted for more than $1.3 billion, or 55 percent, of the funds invested statewide. Moreover, in the coming years, 2006-10, MnDOT's current plans are to invest more than $3.3 billion throughout the state in highway improvements, with nearly 54 percent of that investment being made in greater Minnesota.
The 2003 Pawlenty/Molnau initiative is delivering 18 of its announced 19 major highway capital, safety and preservation projects, along with nearly 40 greater Minnesota and metro area transit projects.
Significant greater Minnesota highway projects -- Highway 10 in Detroit Lakes, Highway 53 in Duluth, Highway 14 from Janesville to Waseca and Highway 52 in Oronoco -- are all under construction or completed. No greater Minnesota projects included in the 2003 plan have been delayed or deferred. This success rate is remarkable given the transportation trends and challenges facing every state in the nation.
And Gov. Pawlenty is proposing even more. The governor is sending to the 2006 Legislature a $2.5 billion highway capital investment plan, based on passage of a constitutional amendment this November dedicating the sales taxes we pay on car purchases to transportation.
The governor's plan has already identified 18 greater Minnesota highway projects that will be accelerated, with more to be identified in the future. I support the constitutional amendment and the governor's plan for investment. Both are good for greater Minnesota and our state as a whole.
Dick Day, R-Owatonna, is minority leader of the Minnesota Senate.