Jennifer Munt: Let’s move Minnesota in 2015

munt-mugMinnesota has an urgent transportation problem that’s making it difficult for Minnesotans to get to their next destination, whether that’s work, school, play or family.

Transportation is about opportunity for all no matter who you are or where you live. Workers need safer roads and better public transit to get to work. Our seniors need a ride to live independently. Our families need better bike and pedestrian routes that connect them to their schools, jobs and recreation. Our farmers need sturdy bridges to get their products to market. Our businesses require highways to quickly move their goods.

Crumbling Infrastructure, Shrinking Workforce

There’s no way our economy can grow, prosper and compete on crumbling infrastructure that takes a beating from our winter climate. Here are some facts that scream urgency. Half of our roads and bridges are more than 40 years old and in poor condition with nearly 2.5 million commuters driving across a structurally-deficient bridge every day.

Meanwhile, the state transportation department has 2,000 fewer maintenance workers than it did a decade ago. With MnDOT’s shrinking workforce, it’s impossible to keep up with our aging infrastructure. Much of Minnesota’s infrastructure was built in a short span of years – in the 1960s and ‘70s – so our roads and bridges are all wearing out at the same time. It’s like a circulatory system that can no longer pump.

Transportation employs about 65,000 workers in Minnesota, including 2,700 AFSCME members who maintain and repair state highways and bridges. Our members see the underbellies of our bridges, the poor pavement on our roads, and potholes that could swallow a car.

Everyone Deserves a Ride

Workers can save up to $8,000 a year if they can walk, bike or ride transit to work – instead of driving alone. Unfortunately, only 10 percent of the jobs in the metro area are easy to get to by bus or train.

Our aging population and persons with disabilities need adequate bus service to live independently. Demand is also exploding for bike and pedestrian routes that provide healthy, affordable, environmentally-friendly choices for getting around.

2015 is the Year to Fund Transportation

Minnesota has only 60 percent of what it needs for roads, bridges and transit. Each year we delay Minnesota’s urgent transportation needs, the cost to taxpayers increases.

Move MN has proposed a funding package that is comprehensive to address roads, bridges, transit, and bike and pedestrian connections. It fairly balances the needs of Greater Minnesota and the metro, urban and suburban communities, and the east and west metro. It’s a long-term, sustainable solution with funding dedicated to transportation.

Our funding package is just the beginning of the discussion. To fund roads and bridges, the Move MN proposal includes a sales tax on leased vehicles and wholesale oil distributors. A three-quarter cent increase in the seven-county metro sales tax would expand current metro and suburban transit systems. A portion of that sales-tax revenue would add bike and pedestrian connections in the metro and flexible federal dollars would be allocated for bike and pedestrian connections in other parts of the state.

Gov. Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Paul Thissen have all said that 2015 will be the transportation session. Please urge your state legislators to fund transportation.

Our cherished quality of life and Minnesota’s economic vitality depend on safe roads and bridges, and easy access to public transit in communities where people can bike and walk.

To learn more, visit Move MN’s website.

– Jennifer Munt serves on the Metropolitan Council and is public affairs director for AFSCME Council 5.

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