Letter: Efficiencies must come first in transportation

Published 9:44 am Thursday, September 18, 2014

Won’t be enough to close funding gap

By the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Sandy Forstner, Austin Area Chamber of Commerce

Minnesota’s economy and our region depend on the safe and efficient movement of people and goods. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, along with members of the Minnesota Chamber Federation (including Austin), is pleased to see the work of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle in pushing for greater efficiencies in the use of our transportation tax dollars. The Chamber has worked closely with Zelle and his senior staff to make progress on this front, and we look forward to continuing our efforts.

The Department of Transportation, under Zelle’s leadership, has embraced the goal of adding 5 percent to its construction budget in FY 2015 solely by doing things more efficiently, a requirement supported by the Chamber and passed by the 2014 Legislature. An additional $40 million to $50 million will be invested in roads and bridges this year — without any tax increases or new revenues.

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We don’t presume that efficiencies alone can close the state’s long-term transportation funding gap. Still, this 5 percent should be viewed as just a starting point to meeting the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee’s recommendation that roughly 15 percent of the gap be closed by doing things more efficiently.

Transportation funding is certain to be center stage at the 2015 Legislature. We thank the commissioner for his leadership and encourage all policy-makers to make sure that efficiencies are central to any remedy.