Editorial: Get off the road to ruin
It’s probably little secret to most readers that many roads and bridges across Nobles County are in need of improvement. Unfortunately, Steve Schnieder, the county’s public works director, has a budget that’s practically non-existent compared to the amount of money needed to make an impact in necessary work.
We are not alone when it comes to this dilemma. Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling rapidly, and there are many who are beginning to pay attention. Move MN, a coalition of more than 175 organizations, reports the state has 140,000 miles of roads and 20,000 bridges behind in upgrades and repairs. Part of the reason is because of soaring construction costs that have increased by 70 percent in the past 10 years. It’s also due to a lack of action in recent years by the state to address this ever-growing deficiency in an area that — let’s face it — is crucial to maintaining and growing our collective economy.
Move MN is actively promoting a number of solutions for increasing statewide transportation funding. One idea is to dedicate all leased vehicle sales tax to highway and transit funding, which Move MN says would bring $32 million in new transportation without raising any new taxes. Another proposal involves a three-fourths of a cent increase in the sales tax for seven counties in the metro area, generating a projected $335 million annually. A third would add a new sales tax for wholesale fuel that, Move MN says, would raise more than $360 million in new revenue each year.
Being an election year, it’s hard to fathom creation of a brand-new statewide tax; the potential political liability is indeed dangerous. The cost of doing nothing, however, is great. We simply can let our roads and bridges deteriorate without taking an active interest in their future.