Guest Commentary: Investing in the infrastructure needs of our communities
Published 6:08 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023
By Scott Dibble
Senate Transportation Committee Chair
The foundation of Minnesota’s economy is our infrastructure – the thousands of miles of roads, bridges, and transit that connect our communities, support our commerce, and connect Minnesotans to each other. It’s so important, in fact, that funding for transportation is actually mandated in our state’s constitution.
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Unfortunately, we have not kept up with the needs of our transportation network and infrastructure. Too often in recent years, opportunities to invest and support these critical functions failed to get across the finish line. Bad politics got in the way of good policy.
That’s why I’m happy to say, the era of gridlock is over. On Monday, January 30, the Minnesota Senate unanimously passed legislation unlocking over $315 million in federal funds for state roads. Instead of backroom deals and legislation as bargaining chips, we’re moving legislation forward on its merits and making investing in our communities, in Minnesotans’ lives and jobs, a priority.
We also know this is only the first part of the federal funds coming to Minnesota. The Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by President Biden in November of 2021 will provide at least $4.8 billion for Minnesota over the next five years. We also have the opportunity to secure more funding through competitive grants – all of which will be dedicated to maintaining, upgrading, and strengthening our infrastructure – making sure that those from all walks of life have access, and improving our environment at the same time. In fact, there are six sites along I-90 in Austin that have bridges that are scheduled to be replaced or repaired in 2024 to 2026 – each of these could benefit from this funding.
It won’t be just our roads and bridges though. This legislation will also invest in broadband, water, energy, and power infrastructure and a host of other needs. It also means jobs. We know that investing in infrastructure is one of the best ways to stimulate our economy and create good, well-paying jobs. That’s why it was supported in committee by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the laborers union, and Associated General Contractors.
My DFL colleagues in the Senate and House promised to move past the gridlock and get the work done, and we’re keeping that promise. Our work isn’t done, in fact it’s only getting started.