It’s no secret our state’s infrastructure is aging and deteriorating. According to the recently released American Society of Civil Engineers annual state report card, Minnesota roads received a D+ grade while bridges received a C and transit service a C-. We need to do better.
Minnesota Republicans and DFLers alike agree that more resources should be dedicated to fixing our state’s infrastructure. Gov. Tim Walz made this a top priority this legislative session, rightfully and thankfully so.
Unfortunately, there is no agreement in St. Paul yet on how best to increase funding.
Insisting on one funding source without being open to compromise only leads to gridlock. We need state leaders to work together to solve this problem.
Without some kind of additional funding, roads, bridges, and transit needs in our area will go unaddressed. It is why the city of Duluth proposed a half-percent sales tax dedicated entirely to streets, approved by 77 percent of voters and in every precinct in Duluth.
We need Gov. Walz and the House and Senate to work together to find a transportation-funding solution that can pass and be signed into law in 2019. Delay will only make our problems worse and more expensive, making inaction the more fiscally irresponsible choice.
In Northeastern Minnesota, we need improvements to Highways 169, 53, and 61, and we need to replace deficient bridges and improve local roads. When state and federal funds are inadequate, it puts more pressure on local property taxpayers.
However, it isn’t just a matter of taxes; it’s about safety, too. More Minnesotans were killed or injured in traffic crashes in 2018 than in 2017, with an estimated 380 lives lost. Most auto fatalities and injuries occur on two-lane, undivided roadways in rural areas.
Arrowhead Transit and the Duluth Transit Authority provide needed transit service but can’t expand service to serve more areas and more people without additional funding. This expansion is helpful in not only providing more transportation options for folks but also in decreasing wear and tear on our roads.
Minnesota's crumbling, below-average infrastructure is becoming more noticeable with the snow gone (finally!). It is no longer hidden. The Legislature is set to adjourn Monday, just before Minnesota families embark on summer road trips. As a state, we cannot afford to have another year with more car repairs due to failing infrastructure, accidents, injuries, and fatalities. We cannot afford to regress. We need to do better, and we can do better.
Noah Hobbs is an elected, at-large member of the Duluth City Council, serving this year as council president.