Patti Gartland and Brian Myres make the case for funding infrastructure in April 1 Your Turn submission to the St. Cloud Times.

March 27, 2017

To The Editor of the St. Cloud Times:

We are writing on behalf of the investors of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation.  Our organization leads economic development for the greater St. Cloud community and has six strategic initiatives, one of which is multimodal transportation infrastructure expansion.

This year, for the first time since 2008, the Minnesota legislature is expected to fund a significant, multimodal transportation maintenance and new construction bill. But, will it be enough?  Experts say that at least a $600 million, 10-year investment is needed simply to maintain the safety of our current transportation system.  Local governments, safety advocates, agricultural organizations, the business community and labor organizations have raised a united concern - we cannot wait any longer.

Funding our state’s roads, bridges, rail, air and transit systems is one of the core – and most basic – functions of state government. The 2017 legislature has the opportunity to succeed where others have failed and end the cycle of unsuccessful attempts to deliver on one of the most basic expectations of voters. 

Minnesota has not had a transportation bill since 2008 and the citizens of Minnesota are bearing the cost of inaction. The investors of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation comprise more than 250 community and business leaders.   They incur unnecessary costs every day when their products and services are hampered by congestion on I-94, Highway 10 and beyond.  We also feel the impact of political gridlock in terms of:

o   Lives lost on roads in need of safety upgrades – the number one cause of death for people ages 2-34 is traffic crashes.

o   The cost of inflation to local governments and road builders who otherwise could lock in lower prices, saving taxpayer dollars.

o   The inefficiency of wasted time in slow and stopped traffic.  The population of the state is projected to increase by almost 1 million people over the next 20 years, which will generate thousands of additional trips on the transportation system every day.

o   With current funding, key corridors will NOT be improved for the next 20 years: I-94, Highways 10, 14, 23, 169, 212, and 610.   Additionally, hundreds of miles of county and city roadways are known to need substantive improvements but no funding is available to complete them.  

o   The 2017 Legislature can leave a positive legacy by funding a meaningful transportation bill, this session, which will help to solve the crises of our roadways.

There are 5,303,925 Minnesotans who rely on our transportation system every day.  It is in the interest of every citizen that our political leaders work together to solve our transportation infrastructure problems and risks. If not funded our transportation systems will be increasingly unsafe and more expensive with each year the legislature fails to act.

The Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation is hosting a Transportation Summit on April 11 at the Kelly Inn in downtown St. Cloud.  This half day event will convene business leaders, elected and appointed officials, and transportation enthusiasts to discuss regional transportation challenges and solutions.  The event is open to the public but registration is needed at www.GreaterStCloud.com, see Events.

Sincerely,

Brian Myres

GSDC Board Vice Chair and Transportation Corps Chair

Patti Gartland

GSDC President

Posted on April 27, 2017 .