Infrastructure & Transportation
As a civil engineer, this is my area of expertise.
Roads and Bridges
By now, you know that I am passionate about Infrastructure. My appointment to both the Senate Transportation and Bonding committees has provided me so many opportunities to witness first-hand the challenges and deficiencies we have right here in Minnesota. My main concern has been with the number of Minnesotans without access to affordable, clean drinking water. Clean water is something we take for granted, and before I was elected, I had no idea that so many communities had needs for new wells, pipes, or treatment systems.
The recently passed Federal Infrastructure bill will send billions of dollars to Minnesota, including $688 million for water improvements alone. The money will come over the next 5 years, and the Senate needs a civil engineer (like me) familiar with funding structure, projects, needs, materials, and processes to make sure the money is optimized and spent on the most critical projects. I am working with colleagues from the American Public Works Association, MN 2050, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Raise the Grade Minnesota to create a framework for supporting both our state’s drinking water and wastewater systems. I enjoy this work very much and will continue to leverage my knowledge and professional relationships to find ways to support our water infrastructure.
The American Society of Civil Engineers recently graded all of America’s infrastructure by state, and a new report will be released in April of 2022. In Minnesota, our infrastructure received an average score of C, but our roads were rated a D+ (see www.raiseourgrademn.org/). Our bridges were rated a C, a better-than-expected grade partly due to emergency funding and repairs after the 35W bridge collapsed in 2007. It is shameful that a bridge fell and 13 people died before we paid attention to the failing state of our local infrastructure. A D+ is a failing grade, and our infrastructure is failing.
We’ve ignored our roads and bridges for too long, and as the largest owner and funder of our infrastructure, the state government has a responsibility and opportunity to bring them back to a safe and acceptable condition, and the legislature must play a leading role in this work. We need a comprehensive plan, and now is the time to make sure that Minnesota makes use of every federal dollar available to make progress towards restoring safe and efficient civil infrastructure that serves us well into the future (see my friend and Transportation Alliance Executive Director Margaret Donahoe’s editorial on the need for a 10-year transportation plan here).
I support increasing our bonding to more adequately reflect our state’s bonding capacity and to address the $5 billion in bonding requests that we’ve received from local communities in 2022. Bond funds are desperately needed to create jobs and make critical improvements to our infrastructure and are an important example of how infrastructure projects will support Minnesota’s economic recovery by providing good jobs to thousands of workers who have lost their jobs or seen their hours slashed due to the pandemic.
I am a passionate transit advocate. My company has worked on the design and construction of the three Minnesota light rail lines to date, as well as on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and other transit facilities that benefit our communities. Transit is both a workforce and quality of life issue: we must provide transit so workers without cars can get to their jobs, and Twin Cities drivers waste hours of their days sitting in traffic. In fact, the number of hours the average Twin Cities driver wastes sitting in traffic quadrupled between 1982 and 2014. Five years later, it’s even worse – see this Business Journal article for more information. Aside from the quality-of-life issues, time is money, and this congestion costs the metro area nearly $4 billion each year in wasted time and increased business costs.
We cannot just build our way out of congestion – instead, transit and innovative congestion management are the answers to reducing the hours commuters spend in traffic. There are efficient ways to reduce congestion that include both transit alternatives and new construction. Having a civil engineer like me in the Senate will help the legislature make smart decisions about where to direct transit and transportation funding. I will work to efficiently and effectively steer funding to address our traffic problems.
I support the installation of broadband internet service for all Minnesotans. 14 percent of Minnesota is underserved, and nine percent of Minnesota has no broadband access. Even in areas where broadband exists, wired coverage is not always good: over 600,000 Minnesotans have access to only one wired provider, leaving them no options to switch. I often hear complaints from my friends and neighbors in the western suburbs about their wired services, and they live in an area where they would expect to have options. They don’t. The opportunity to leverage federal dollars to provide broadband for all Minnesotans is significant, and we cannot waste it.
More specifically, I support continued and increased funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program. Providing broadband access to all provides equity in information access for those who live in rural counties, and the cost and effort required to install broadband would provide jobs in the counties that need them most.
In my first legislative session, I authored the following bills that would help address some of the issues mentioned above. If you want to learn more about the bills or have additional ideas please reach out to my Senate Office.
Signed into law:
- Interstate highway #494 corridor transportation management organizations grant program for company and commuters telework efforts and promotion; appropriation
- Trunk highway #55 corridor from Medina to Minneapolis transit service alternatives analysis appropriation
- Commissioner of Transportation implementation of trunk highway performance measures and annual targets requirement
Chief Authored in my first sessionterm:
- Motor fuels tax calculation modification
- Sales tax on motor fuels political subdivisions imposition authorization to fund transportation infrastructure
- Hennepin County Road #47, Northwest Boulevard, in Plymouth bond issue and appropriation
- Municipality authorization to establish streets improvement districts establishment
- Nonmotorized transportation finance and policy provisions modifications, bond issue, and appropriation
- Chanhassen trunk highway #41 intersection reconstruction bond issue and appropriation
- Spring Park public utility improvements appropriation modification
- Shorewood Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail safe crossing route appropriation
- Local bridge replacement program bond issue and appropriation
- Tonka Bay water main replacement bond issue and appropriation
- Minnetonka Beach water treatment plant bond issue and appropriation
Prepared and paid for by Campaign of Ann Johnson Stewart, PO Box 46505, Plymouth, MN 55446