State’s transportation needs can’t wait, coalition warns

Brian Beedle (left), a member of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, checks out a map detailing potential job-creating investments in the Metro Area transit system.

Brian Beedle (left), a member of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, checks out a map detailing potential job-creating investments in the Metro Area transit system.

Support for transportation and transit investments among state lawmakers this session appears lukewarm at best, and that baffles Rep. Alice Hausman.

“With all the grumbling and complaining about roads and potholes, you wouldn’t think funding transportation would be this hard,” the DFLer from St. Paul said.

Hausman, who chairs the House Capital Investment Committee, joined a rally with other transportation advocates at the Capitol on April 17. She urged “resiliency” in an uphill battle to pass a comprehensive transportation finance bill that makes new, needed investments in roads, bridges and public transit.

Minnesota Building & Construction Trades Council President Harry Melander addresses the rally.

Minnesota Building & Construction Trades Council President Harry Melander addresses the rally.

The rally, organized by the Transportation for a Stronger Economy coalition, drew support from labor unions, business groups, environmental activists and local government officials. Speakers urged supporters to tell their lawmakers that transportation investments can’t wait.

“Transportation problems don’t go away; they just get more expensive,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis.

“Transportation jobs unite this state,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak added. “We have underinvested in our transportation infrastructure. It puts our lives at risk, it puts our jobs at risk and it puts our lifestyles at risk.”

The coalition of transportation supporters got some good news a day after the rally, when the Senate Transportation Committee passed a comprehensive transportation finance  bill with bipartisan support.

The bill includes a small sales-tax hike in the seven-county Metro area, dedicated to transit, as well as some support for walking and biking paths. The bill also includes more than $20 million per year in new funding for transit in Greater Minnesota.

Transportation investments have the potential to create thousands of jobs and boost the state’s economy – a point of agreement for both Harry Melander, president of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council, and Will Schroeer, representing Minneapolis and St. Paul’s chambers of commerce.

“We have an investment opportunity in front of us today,” Schroeer said. “And if we don’t make it, that money will go someplace else.”

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