Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

CYNICAL THOUGHTS

As we watched the 6pm news on August 1, and saw the collapsed bridge my first thought was a very cynical one. I hate to admit that these thoughts even entered my mind, but they did. In fact, I even said it out loud, “Maybe now, they (meaning legislature and governor) will do something about transportation funding!”

For over 13 years, in my career as a county commissioner, transportation funding has been the number one priority. And for 13 years nothing has been done. And nothing was being done before I came in office. Nothing has been done since 1988. If we ran our businesses this way, we would be out of business!

Recently the Association of Minnesota Counties AMC has set forth some basic principles to help get us back to where we need to be and to keep our state moving forward. These principles include: safety; additional capacity for farm to market roads, reducing congestion. To help the implementation of these principles the AMC is asking for adequate revenue streams and that transit systems have a dedicated funding source.

These requests are not anything new. The AMC has been lobbying for practices such as these for years. These are not asking for “pie in the sky”. These are needs that must be met just to keep our economy rolling. If it were yours or my business, these are needs that we would invest in so our business would keep pace with competition and insure a profit.

While I use the analogy to make a point, the state’s highway system is not a business; it is part of an infrastructure that makes for a good quality of life. The citizens expect to have a transportation system that is efficient and safe. To quote Myra Peterson, Washington County Commissioner, and Chair of the AMC Transportation Policy Committee, “How do we tell the families of bridge victims that we are sorry? How do we tell families that the ditch was too steep and the car rolled over killing their child? How do we tell the child left behind that his parent lost their life because of an inadequate rail crossing?”

We need an infusion of funding into a system. In Nicollet County alone, the project needs are in the area of $8.3 million. The section of County Road 5 (Fort Road) that is ready to be built is now $5 million. When we met with Reps. Brynaert and Morrow and Sen. Sheran last December, the estimate was $3.8 million. This funding would take a road with steep, unforgiving ditches, rebuild it to a safe design and make it strong enough to hold the heavier weights of today’s farm vehicles.

The time is now. The legislative leaders need to come to an agreement and get the job done. end

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