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Dayton’s MnDOT testifies that it cannot prioritize mobility or reduce congestion in Metro area

I testified in the House Transportation and Regional Governance Policy committee on Monday in favor of an idea that is long overdue: requiring MnDOT to revise the 20-year state highway investment plan to prioritize mobility and relieve congestion.

The Center recommended this approach in our Minnesota Policy Blueprint. (The bill language, offered by Rep. Regina Barr, is posted below.) I suggested that the bill be amended to add a specific goal, like a 20% reduction by 2020, and that funding, through bonds or existing taxes, if needed, be provided. The bill passed out of committee and went on to Transportation Finance.

After my testimony on our growing congestion, a representative from MnDOT testified that the agency could not afford to shift its priorities; that MnDOT is focused on just maintaining the roads we already have and that requiring MnDOT to reduce congestion would detract from maintenance of roads.

The MnDOT official did not even offer that reducing congestion was a good idea or acknowledge that it is a problem for the Metro. He did not give the impression that congestion relief was a good idea. I find that astonishing, and clear evidence that the Legislature needs to step in and use its authority to re-direct this agency that has lost sight of what should be a core deliverable.

All the Democrats on the committee who spoke rejected the idea; Rep. Youakim from Hopkins, who knows a lot about roads having served on her city council for many years, said that she wanted to stick with “a multi-model approach.” Rep. Hornstein from Minneapolis called the bill “fiscally irresponsible.” But neither denied that congestion was a big and growing problem. Or offered to figure out how to find the money, if needed. (There may be plenty of money that is just not being spent well; I do not know.)

The House measure, which has no companion thus far in the Senate (hello over there!), would countermand a radical policy shift directed by the Dayton Smith administration, and reinforced by their Met Council, that dropped congestion relief as a goal.

You read that correctly: MnDOT announced in 2010 that congestion relief was no longer a goal. “Since 2010, MnDOT’s strategy has shifted from reducing congestion toward providing alternatives to congested travel” What are those alternatives besides trains? Bikes paths, bike lanes and pedestrian ways. They call it “multi-model.”

Funding for congestion relief has dropped from about 7% of MnDOT’s budget to about 1% of the budget.

How is that working out for us?

I recently met with a mayor of a large metro city; she told me that MnDOT had been “captured” by the Met Council’s Thrive 2040 plan that rejects the expansion of roads in favor of bikes and trains—and forcing new residential development into high density homes along transit. Here is the Met Council’s policy on congestion: “The Council recognizes that congestion will not be eliminated or significantly reduced in the Metropolitan Area”

The two agencies, under the Dayton Smith administration, when asked to relieve our growing congestion? They shrug and tell you to walk, or ride your bike. Maybe move to a high rise along a train.

Twin Cities Traffic Congestion? It is no Accident. Check out the facts here.

 

Authored by Rep. Regina Barr, House File 3703

A bill for an act
relating to transportation; directing revision of the statewide highway investment
plan to prioritize certain mobility investments.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1. CONGESTION REDUCTION PRIORITIZATION.

(a) By September 30, 2019, the commissioner of transportation must adopt a revised
20-year statewide highway investment plan under Minnesota Statutes, section 174.03,
subdivision 1c, that:

(1) establishes mobility in the Department of Transportation’s metropolitan district as a
high-priority investment category;

(2) allocates sufficient funds to achieve an appreciable reduction in congestion compared
to anticipated congestion levels under the most recent statewide highway investment plan;
and

(3) prioritizes general purpose lanes or dynamic shoulder lanes over lanes for which a
user fee is imposed.

(b) The commissioner must revise the statewide multimodal transportation plan under
Minnesota Statutes, section 174.03, subdivision 1a, or other plans as necessary to conform
with the requirements under paragraph (a).

EFFECTIVE DATE.

This section is effective the day following final enactment.

 

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