Transportation bill passed

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The House of Representatives approved a transportation funding bill Saturday by a vote of 86 to 45 that maintains local road, bridge and highway funding without transportation tax or fee increases, cuts general fund dollars to help solve the budget shortfall, and fully funds Greater Minnesota and metro transit.

“This transportation bill helps close our budget shortfall while still investing in the infrastructure projects critical to Minnesota’s economic recovery and future,” said Rep. Bernie Lieder (DFL-Crookston) House Chair of Transportation Finance and Policy Division. “It’s a strong jobs bill for every region of the state that matches our need to plan for 21st century transportation system in Minnesota.”

The transportation funding bill differs from many other budget bills because most transportation funding dollars come from constitutionally dedicated sources, so the bill can fund most local road programs without exacerbating the budget shortfall. However, the severe fall off of dedicated sources and about $8 million in budget cuts will leave significant deficits for Metro Transit ($62.5 million) and Greater MN Transit ($10 million). In order to preserve transit services and hold down user fees, the House Transportation bill redirects dedicated funds, mostly the sales tax on leased vehicles, to fill the projected gaps to fully fund transit statewide.

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“We are taking responsible action to preserve statewide transit services that thousands of Minnesotans depend on,” said Lieder. “Without this effort, we would likely see transit services decline or fee increases in both Greater Minnesota and the metro area.”

Highlights of the Transportation bill include:

Maintains local, road and bridge funding without transportation tax or user fee increase

Fully funds Greater and metro Minnesota transit in order to preserve services and/or fee increases

Coordinates commuter and passenger rail planning process so Minnesota can take full advantage of federal funding for high speed rail

Authorizes Transportation Contingent Appropriations Group to approve any future federal transportation funding made available through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Contributes to budget solution with $8.4 million cuts to transportation general fund

Prevents cancellation or delays of future road and bridge projects by building up the depleted Trunk Highway Fund

Allows a driver on a two-lane highway with a 55-60 mph speed limit to exceed the posted limit by 10 mph when passing another vehicle