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Same old story: more need than money

The good news is that state and federal officials, coming out of a recessive economy, are starting to focus on the ever-growing needs of aging and insufficient infrastructure across our nation.
The bad news is that the state and federal officials still don’t know where they are going to scrape up the money to fix all our needs.
At last Wednesday’s Glencoe Area Chamber of Commerce meeting, Margaret Donahoe, executive director of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, outlined the needs of strengthening Highway 212, a vital east-west corridor that stretches from the Twin Cities metro area all the way west to the South Dakota border.
The most immediate need is to correct two bottlenecks between Norwood Young America where the four-lane highway narrows to two lanes.
Donahoe noted that the federal government just passed a six-year funding bill, which will help stabilize transportation funding, but there is still no mechanism in place that provides a steady, reliable source of revenue to fund transportation needs.
And while the Highway 212 project, Donahoe said, is critical, so are several other needs.
“There are no dollars and, frankly, we see this all over the state,” Donahoe said.
State Sen. LeRoy Stumpf had a similar message Thursday when the Senate Capital Investment Committee visited Ridgewater College. The committee spent three days traveling the state last week, hearing about transportation needs.
And Stumpf acknowledged that those needs are great — in fact, total dollars requested for bonding projects is three times what the committee has budgeted to spend.
Carver County Public Works Engineer Lyndon Robjent and McLeod County Highway Engineer John Brunkhorst did their constituents well in outlining the needs of Highway 212 and the Morningside improvement project in Glencoe. There is no doubt both projects are critical improvements to the area.
Unfortunately, as Donahoe said, these projects will compete with equally critical projects all across the state. And we must remember that “critical infrastructure” is not just roads and bridges, but pipelines, electrical power grids, railroads and that perennial scapegoat, light rail.
When one applies for bonding, it’s almost like buying a lottery ticket — not much of a chance of winning but, if you don’t buy a ticket, there is no chance at all.
We truly hope the state Legislature sees the value of the local projects and comes through with some bonding funding.
But, more importantly, we hope it finally comes up with a mechanism to provide a steady, reliable source of funding to address our infrastructure needs for generations to come.