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LETTER: Minnesota roads still need Minnesota dollars

Late last week, a significant transportation event occurred without a lot of fanfare.

On Dec. 6, President Barack Obama signed into law a five-year federal transportation funding bill. It is called the FAST Act, with FAST standing for Fixing America’s Surface Transportation. It provides $281 billion for transportation across the nation over the next five years.

For Minnesota, the amount of federal funding will increase by 5 percent this year and more than 2 percent a year for each of the next four years.

It is a significant accomplishment, and I want to thank the members of our congressional delegation, who worked very hard to build this legislation and get it passed.

Federal funding is a key component in maintaining Minnesota’s transportation system. Federal funding helps support our interstate system as well as a number of local roadways. It also is a key element in funding transit and safety projects.

At MnDOT, we are very grateful for the work our congressional delegation has done to ensure that federal funding will be predictable into the future. It will make us more effective in our jobs and let us better serve the traveling public.

Now, Minnesota needs to step up and do its part. While the federal funding is an important part of our success, it is not the only source of funding.

When we build our Minnesota State Highway Investment plan, we project the revenue we will get over the next 20 years. These projections include anticipated federal funding.

Based on our latest projections, we anticipate that the state will be $16.3 billion short over 20 years if we want to maintain an economically competitive system, which means pavements that are not crumbling and bridges that are in good repair. It means safe roadways that support a strong and vibrant Minnesota economy.

So, it is time for our state Legislature to step up to the plate. We will all have to work together to ensure that we have the transportation funding we need to travel into a bright and economically sound future.

Congress has done its part. Now, it’s our turn.

Charlie Zelle

St. Paul

Zelle is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.