August 19, 2008

Meanwhile, back on the home front...

More MnDOT controversy this time....or moreso silence.

There's been a lot of talk and articles lately on the transportation funding bill passed (actually veto-overridden) by the Legislature early this spring, and on one Republican representative in particular.

Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) is one of six Republicans who voted to override Pawlenty's veto of the transportation funding bill, giving MnDOT its first major cash infusion (MVST phase-in notwithstanding...and that has problems of its own as it is) in years.

So you'd think everything was fine and dandy, and MnDOT now has a means to pay back get some much-needed and delayed projects running. And to an extent, it has...the 169 "Devil's Triangle" near Osseo had repeatedly been delayed...lastly by its funding being shifted to keep the Crosstown Commons on track. And it's now under construction. Some needed bridge replacements, including I-90 at Dresbach, US 52 Lafayette Bridge, and the US 61 Hastings bridge, are now funded and scheduled.

Stop the presses.

It seems there's a minor blurb in the funding bill that directs MnDOT to "finish Highway 60".

And indeed there is. Article 2, Section 3, Subdivision 2(e). It directs MnDOT to spend bond funds in District 7 to "accelerate all projects" that meet certain criteria...namely IRC projects that have an EIS completed, are included in the long-range plan, and add capacity. Interestingly, only Highway 60 meets this criteria.

The section between the Iowa line and Worthington is slated, but the section between Windom and St. James is still unscheduled, much to the dismay of local residents.

So a lot of the attention lately has been on this lack of scheduling, articles written by both Rep. Hamilton and other Legislative members, and this otherwise-obscure line in the transportation funding bill.

Now don't get me wrong...Hwy 60 needs to be improved. The back-and-forth between 2 lanes and 4 lanes is confusing to motorists, and the highway has had its share of accidents.

But there's a few things to consider here. First, there are numerous other roadways across the state that have the same accident problems, and have much more traffic on them. Yet they aren't scheduled.

Second is another part of the transportation funding bill that most people seem to have either forgotten or ignored.

I wrote up a letter that sums it up, and sent it to the StarTribune, the Mankato Free Press, the Worthington Daily Globe, and the Mountain Lake Observer. The version to the Worthington paper is slightly different than the other three as I was replying directly to a letter by Rep. Hamilton there. Below is the letter in italics:


MnDOT in a Catch-22

A lot has been said lately about Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) and this year's transportation funding bill, not to mention the mandate put in for MnDOT to first expend funds on certain projects in southwestern Minnesota that meet certain criteria, and that only Highway 60 meets the criteria.

While this is's in Article 2, Section 3, Subdivision 2(e) of the transportation also represents somewhat of a dilemma for MnDOT. Because Article 6, Section 5, Subdivision 4 (and its various components) requires all state highway bridges that are fracture-critical or have a sufficiency rating below 80 to be under contract by mid-2018. And as we've all seen, bridges are expensive. Also, because of the ongoing escalation in material costs (steel, cement, oil, etc), MnDOT just doesn't have the funding to maintain the existing system, build Highway 60, and meet the bridge repair/replacement requirements, even with the funding bill. So something has to give. And unless we're all willing to live with less road maintenance and worse pavement, MnDOT will have to go against one of the legislative requirements, whether it be the bridge requirements or Highway 60.

A catch-22, if you will.


Will be interesting to see if anyone publishes it...nevermind what MnDOT plans to do to address the controversy. Stay tuned.