ROADS/BRIDGES: Minn. Governor casts a wide net of potential projects with $6 billion budget

Constituting a 10-year overhaul of the state’s infrastructure, Dayton’s plan says, “next to nothing is not an option”

Funding News February 19, 2015
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With 2015 now fully under way, states across the country are rapidly gearing up budgets for the coming years, all of which must address the pervasive infrastructure problems plaguing the nation at large. While plans and proposals vary depending on the specific needs and demands of each given state, the common thread running through all is the volleying of a multi-year solution, rather than a “band-aid” approach seeking smaller measures for only the remainder of this year.
 
Minn. Governor Mark Dayton this week threw his hat into the budgetary ring with a $6 billion plan to “overhaul” his state’s roads and bridges infrastructure over the course of the next 10 years. Under his plan, more than 2,200 state roads and 330 bridges would see repair, replacement or expansion over the course of a proposed 600-plus projects. The plan would be satisfied, in part, by an increase in license tab fees and a gas tax boost that would lean on drivers to pony up an additional 16 cents per gallon at the pump.
 
At a press conference outlining the plan, Dayton was adamant that “doing nothing or next to nothing is not an option.” Following the press conference, GOP leaders were quick to cry foul at the Democratic governor’s plan, claiming that the dense list of projects contains a waft of political earmarking.
 
Nonetheless, DOT commissioner Charles Zelle issued facts that would seem to passively, though irrefutably, call for drastic action—action that Dayton’s plan clearly would demand. According to Zelle, roughly half of the state’s roads are more than half a century old, and nearly that amount of the state’s bridges are not far behind. By 2018, he said, one in every five roads and bridges will have outlived its usefulness.
 
Among the myriad projects listed in the proposed budget, one of the largest would reconstruct I-94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul, widening the Mississippi River bridge in that location and potentially adding an MnPass lane to improve traffic flow an boost revenue. While the project-by-project cost is not yet broken down, Dayton stated that the size and durability of projects would range from the massive to the modest.
 
To pay for his plan, Dayton is proposing a 6.5% gross receipts tax on gasoline at the wholesale level. Notably, however, as gas prices rise, so would the wholesale tax. At $4 per gallon, the wholesale tax would be 22 cents added on top of the existing state gas tax of 28.5 cents per gallon. It remains to be seen what kind of traction the governor’s plan can gain in an already divided state Congress.

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