Saint Paul, Minnesota (June 21, 2016 )- Four weeks after the tumultuous end to the regular legislative session, local elected officials, business leaders, and transportation advocates came together today to express frustration about inaction by the legislature. Saying that legislators are putting safety and prosperity at risk, the speakers called on the Governor to call a special session and on legislative leaders to get long-term transportation funding done.

The speakers emphasized that transportation has been a top tier issue for two years without significant action from the legislature. They spoke of specific needs in their communities, making clear that these are emblematic of infrastructure issues faced in communities across the state.

TinaDiedrickANDShepHarrisTina Diedrick, Mayor of Norwood Young America (left) and Shep Harris, Mayor of Golden Valley

Tina Diedrick, Mayor of Norwood Young America, spoke of students trying to cross a six-lane highway to get to school. “I am here on behalf of the residents of Norwood Young America and especially the children,” she said, calling the legislature to act on transportation funding, including Safe Routes to School.

Shep Harris, Mayor of Golden Valley, urged legislators to “focus not on the politics of the present but on future needs.” “We are pushing the seams right now,” he said. To deal with workers getting to jobs at General Mills, Honeywell and other major employers, and to deal with future growth, “we need every transportation option on the table and comprehensive funding from the legislature.”

“We need every transportation option on the table.”
Shep Harris, Mayor of Golden Valley

“As local government officials, we are doing all we can to address our local infrastructure needs, it’s time for state leaders to do their job and invest in state highways like Highway 14 which faces serious safety problems,” said Mankato City Councilor Karen Foreman, a member of the Highway 14 Partnership.

Patrick Baker with Greater Mankato Growth said the economy of southern Minnesota is thriving, “but infrastructure is not keeping up.” He said local communities are already paying a price for the legislature’s inaction in longer commutes, vehicle repairs, and higher costs. “Businesses need a better transportation system to compete and expand in Minnesota. When the state doesn’t act, we see local property taxes and local sales taxes increased, which means Minnesotans are paying more but will not benefit from improvements to state infrastructure like trunk highway 14,” he said.

“Businesses need a better transportation system to compete and expand in Minnesota.”
Patrick Baker, Greater Mankato Growth

“The safety of our citizens along Highway 12 is the highest priority for our communities and the Highway 12 Safety Coalition,” said Chief Gary Kroells, West Hennepin Public Safety.  “We can no longer accept that Highway 12 through Independence is double the state average for serious injury and fatality crashes for similar roads in Minnesota. We cannot arrest or ticket our way out of this problem.  We need funding to improve our uncontrolled intersections and save lives.”

Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner, said, “We need public infrastructure for the free market to prosper.” He said “Expanding transit in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area is not controversial. The business community, local governments and citizens all support projects like the Southwest Light Rail Line that will help the region deal with 750,000 new residents in the coming decades.  We simply need the legislature to grant authority to local governments in the region to pay for these critical transit investments.”

“Expanding transit in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area is not controversial. The business community, local governments and citizens all support projects like the Southwest Light Rail Line that will help the region deal with 750,000 new residents in the coming decades.”
Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner

Tom Untiedt, a transit rider from New Hope, represented the needs of Minnesotans who cannot drive. “Transit is a lifeline that allows us to live and work independently. We need longer hours of service and more connections throughout the region,” he said. He challenged legislators to try Metro Mobility and understand its limitations,  adding that Metro Mobility projects a 50 percent growth in coming years but “it can’t handle the demand right now.”

TomUntiedtTransitRiderTom Untiedt, transit rider

The call for increased funding for transit service also came from greater Minnesota, in comments from Shelly Pflaum of Western Community Action in Marshall, who said, “the need for long-term transportation funding, which includes strong support for transit, is largely the same throughout the state.”

“Reliable transportation is imperative for people to be allowed to age in place, and for everyone to be able to contribute to our communities. We need stable funding to continue to offer the services we currently have. Stability will allow us the freedom to explore expanding services, especially to our populations of highest need. In an area as rural as ours, the answer isn’t always as simple as adding a new fixed route. Yet, if there were safe, accessible and easily identifiable bus stops throughout our service area, more people would be able to access our services independently,” Pflaum said.

“Reliable transportation is imperative for people to be allowed to age in place, and for everyone to be able to contribute to our communities” 
Shelly Pflaum, Western Community Action, Marshall, MN

The press conference came together through the combined efforts of transportation advocates from Progress in Motion and Transportation Forward.

DaveVH and other speakersDave Van Hattum, chair of Transportation Forward, speaks to media.

“In communities across the state, we’ve heard about urgent needs to fix aging roads and bridges, to expand bus options, and to insure safe and convenient bicycle/walking connections,” said Dave Van Hattum of the Transportation Forward coalition and Transit for Livable Communities. “The two sides are not that far apart,” he said about legislative leaders. “They agree on the size of the need. They agree that new funding is required to get the job done. During the session they heard from 12 CEOs, 45 Chambers of Commerce, mayors all over the state and citizens frustrated by being stranded. Today, our collective message is that reaching a compromise on transportation funding is too important to delay. Our elected leaders should put productivity ahead of politics, and get the transportation funding job done.”

Margaret Donahoe of Progress in Motion and the Minnesota Transportation Alliance said, “Roadway safety improvements can’t wait. There were more than 78,000 crashes involving 190,000 people in 2014 alone. These crashes cost the state $1,604,051,900 according to MnDOT’s crash facts report. Legislators have put forward plans to address the state’s infrastructure needs. It’s time for them to get the job done.”

Speakers included:

  • Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner
  • Karen Foreman, Mankato City Council, Highway 14 Partnership
  • Tina Diedrick, Mayor of Norwood Young America
  • Shep Harris, Mayor of Golden Valley
  • Patrick Baker, Greater Mankato Growth
  • Tom Untiedt, transit rider from New Hope
  • Margaret Donahoe, Minnesota Transportation Alliance
  • Dave Van Hattum, Transportation Forward coalition

Transportation Forward is a statewide campaign of more than 50 organizations dedicated to building broad support for new investments in all modes of transportation in Minnesota, in the belief that transportation underpins quality of life, the way our communities function, access to economic opportunity, and the health of our residents and the environment. For more information, visit www.transportationforwardmn.org.

Progress In Motion is a coalition of over 250 organizations statewide that advocates for all modes of transportation all across the State of Minnesota. Our goal is the development of a safe and effective transportation system. We advocate for transportation infrastructure and services in Greater Minnesota as well as the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area and for highways and bridges, transit, ports and waterways and other modes. Our coalition is the largest and most diverse transportation organization that includes businesses, labor, local governments and advocates who rely on the transportation system to ship products, get to work, school and other important destinations and live their lives independently. For more information, visit www.transportationalliance.com/content/progress-motion-2

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Voices calling for action on transportation

  • May 6 commentary: 12 CEOs calling for transit investments
  • Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. May 11. “This idea that we in greater Minnesota are against a gas tax increase or are against light rail is just false” From Star Tribune story.
  • Letter from Minnesota Chamber Federation (representing45 chambers of commerce) calling for “sustained, increased investment in our roads, bridges, and transit systems.”
  • Suburban mayors op-ed emphasizing the need for multimodal funding, signed by mayors from Edina, Eagan, Minnetonka, Maplewood, Burnsville, Shoreview, Golden Valley, Hopkins, White Bear Lake, Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Shakopee, Inver Grove Heights, and Savage.