Monday, October 19, 2015

Let's Get Moving! Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle Discusses Funding and 2015 Regional Meetings

There’s been a lot of talk about the need for more investment in state and local transportation systems, but it's been hard to get things moving.

Ready to get moving? City officials from Ranier are excited
about transportation funding at the 2015 Regional Meeting
 in Mountain Iron.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle took time to answer some questions about the funding gridlock, and what Minnesota cities can do to go forward. He and his staff are on the road this fall engaging city officials in this funding discussion at the 2015 Regional Meetings.

What are the consequences of the gridlock over transportation funding?
Our transportation system is growing older. Within the next 10 years, half our pavements and more than a third of our bridges will be 50 years old. Our pavement conditions are worsening. We’ve seen congestion begin to grow in some areas. All of this has a direct impact on the economic vitality of the state: It costs motorists more to idle in congestion and repair vehicles damaged on bad roads, and businesses find it hard to attract employees to a region with poor transportation. The longer we wait to address these problems, the greater the cost will be.

How has this impacted Minnesota cities?
Local governments manage most of the miles in the state road system, and residents expect a certain level of service and quality of roads. Counties and cities are struggling now to keep their infrastructure in good condition, and as the system ages, cities will find it more and more difficult to meet these expectations.

Though there has been some gridlock, what opportunities do you see for the future of transportation funding, and what would that mean for cities throughout Minnesota?
In the last legislative session there was broad, bipartisan support for the idea of addressing transportation needs in the state. That was gratifying. And the administration has made it clear that it will listen and consider options that provide a long-term, dedicated, and sustainable way to fund transportation.

Looking at the state as a whole, what would you say are the goals for future transportation funding proposals?
Future goals are to provide funding that is long-term, dedicated to transportation, and sustainable.

You, along with members of your staff, will be meeting with city officials throughout the state at the League’s 2015 Regional Meetings. What do you hope to accomplish during these discussions?
We want to remind everyone that the transportation funding need continues to exist and is becoming more critical as time passes. We know that citiesas well as counties, townships, and the state systemare all in need of more revenue. We also will ask them to help spread the word and talk to their local legislators prior to the legislative session.

Commissioner Zelle will be at the Regional Meetings in Crookston, Becker, Springfield, and the Metro Meeting in Minneapolis. Representatives from the Department of Transportation will be at all of the 2015 Regional Meetings.

Have you registered for the Regional Meeting in your area? Register now for Regional Meetings in Montevideo, Springfield, and Austin, and the Metro Meeting in Minneapolis.

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