Infrastructure & Transportation
As a civil engineer, this is my area of expertise.
Roads and Bridges
The American Society of Civil Engineers recently graded all of America’s infrastructure by state. 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 down 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 us.
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 10-year plan, and we need increased and consistent funding 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).
There are several ways to fund increased infrastructure spending. For example, I support an increase in the gas tax. It’s been over 10 years since we approved the last increase, and 29 other states have a higher gas tax than we do. State, City and County Engineers are ready to go with projects that improve safety, condition, and traffic flow, including in both Minnetonka and Plymouth, where these officials have identified local projects that need a funding source. An increase in the gas tax would provide funding for many of them.
It’s been appalling to watch Republicans in our state legislature block the passage of the capital bonding bill throughout the spring and summer of 2020 in an effort to force Governor Walz to relinquish his emergency powers to fight COVID-19. 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.
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.