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Group: Minn. roads, bridges are crumbling

Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — Minnesota’s roads are deteriorating, congestion is getting worse, safety is an increasing concern, money is lacking and crumbling infrastructure is hitting state residents in the pocketbook, according to a new report from The Road Information Program.

TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based transportation research group, found that “many sorely needed transportation projects” in the state lack money, despite the state and federal money that has stimulated transportation work in recent months.

Minnesota is getting $502 million for highways and bridges from the federal stimulus, with another $94 million for transit, but those dollars fall far short of the state’s needs, the report noted.

The report cited grim numbers from the Minnesota Department of Transportation: Minnesota has about $15 billion to spend on transportation priorities over the next 20 years, which is roughly $50 billion less than what the state will need over that period.

Among the report’s specific findings:

  • Seventy-six percent of the state’s “major urban roadways” are congested during peak travel times, the highest share in the nation.
  • Thirty-two percent of the state’s major roads are in “poor or mediocre” condition.
  • Nine percent of the state’s bridges 20 feet or longer are structurally deficient and 3 percent are functionally obsolete.
  • Minnesota’s rural traffic fatality rate is 1.27 deaths per 100 million miles of travel, nearly 2.5 times the fatality rate of all roads in the state.
  • Inadequate capacity or poor pavement is costing Minnesota’s drivers $3.1 billion per year.

“I think the thing that comes out quite strongly is that there is clearly a cost to improving the transportation system, and there is a cost to not improving the transportation system,” Frank Moretti, TRIP’s director of policy and research, said in a phone interview.

“The 20-year plan put out by the state indicates that there is a significant shortfall of funding for projects that are needed to maintain mobility, and most of those are in the Twin Cities area. … People say, ‘How much should we invest in the transportation system?’ (But you also need to) look at the costs when you don’t do that.”

Tim Worke, director of the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota’s Highway Division, said, “An important and unappreciated nugget of the report is its quantifying of the costs that we all pay in time of delay and rough roads,” which is $3.1 billion each year.

“TRIP has to a great degree quantified the total transportation finance spectrum — state and federal. It is very important to Minnesota that the feds reauthorize (the federal surface transportation act) ASAP because of the role federal funds play in helping Minnesota pay for much needed projects,” Worke said.

TRIP describes itself as a “nonprofit organization that promotes transportation policies that relieve traffic congestion, improve road and bridge conditions, improve air quality, make highway travel safer and enhance economic productivity.”

A copy of the 39-page report, “Future Mobility in Minnesota: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” is posted on the organization’s Web site, www.tripnet.org.

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