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Letter: Transportation plan needed

No matter where you look in Minnesota, our transportation system is failing to keep pace with our growth and economic needs. Neither rural nor metro communities have benefited from previous battles over transportation at the State Capitol. In fact, past fights have left us with a growing transportation problem in communities statewide, one that requires a statewide solution now.

County commissioners from greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities, are reaching across geographic boundaries to understand each others' local transportation challenges and achieve a statewide solution. Recently, we joined local elected officials, business leaders and others on a tour and discussion of transportation concerns in other parts of the state. These meetings are part of an ongoing effort among local policymakers across Minnesota, and they provided a compelling look at how the inability to complete important projects such as the following in Washington County is hurting our economy and our quality of life: County Road 83 Overpass, $19 million; County State Aid Highway 15 (County State Aid Highway 12 to Trunk Highway 96), $6.5 million; County State Aid Highway 13 (County State Aid Highway 18 to Glen Road), $5.75 million; County State Aid Highway 19 (County State Aid Highway 16 to County State Aid Highway 18), $8.25 million; County State Aid Highway 18 (Interstate 494 to Trunk Highway 95), $20 million; St. Croix River Crossing, $484 million; Interstate 35 from Trunk Highway 97 to Trunk Highway 8, $50 million; Hastings Bridge, $200 million; Trunk Highway 36 and Trunk Highway 120, $30 million; I-35 and Trunk Highway 8, $15 million; Trunk Highway 97 from Interstate 35 to County State Aid Highway 2, $25 million.

The State of Minnesota has the primary responsibility for developing and funding transportation. That's why we are actively working with a diverse coalition of local governments and business, agricultural, environmental and other groups to call on the governor and the State Legislature to enact a comprehensive and much-needed transportation funding bill this year.

Statewide transportation funding needs to be a top priority this session. We cannot afford to cut corners on investments in our roads, bridges and transit systems any longer. Instead, we must focus on the following principles to develop a solid long-term transportation plan for Minnesota:

n Take a balanced approach -- We need to invest in both transit and roads in Greater Minnesota and the Metro Area.

n Focus on safety -- We need to improve dangerous roads and bridges.

n Efficient spending for effective projects -- Transportation funds must be spent wisely and allocated to projects that deliver the greatest benefits.

n Dedicate new revenues to transportation projects -- Any new transportation revenues must be dedicated to upgrading Minnesota's highways, roads, bridges and transit systems.

Such a plan is now making its way through the Legislature. Now is the time to contact your legislators and the Governor. Ask them to turn this plan into law and ensure that our transportation investments secure continued business and economic growth, well-paying jobs and the great quality of life Minnesotans expect and deserve.

Dennis C. Hegberg, Bill Pulkrabek, Gary Kriesel, Myra Peterson, R.H. Stafford

Washington County commissioners