Transportation task force report will get committee hearing

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A report, compiled by a Gov. Mark Dayton-appointed transportation task force and made public late last year, forecasts a $50 billion deficit in transportation funding over the next 20 years. It recommends bridging the shortfall through hikes in the state’s gas tax, license registration fees and sales tax.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), chair of the House Transportation Finance Committee, said members would hear the report later this month, as it launches its discussion over how to fund the state’s growing list of transportation infrastructure needs.

“I, clearly, am of the mind we have significant unmet needs in the state, and we need to sort of bridge the gap between those needs and the revenue we need to raise in order to lessen that gap,” Hornstein said following the meeting. “So, we’ll be looking at that both for roads, bridges and for mass transportation.“

Incoming Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle has said he supports an increased gas tax; Dayton, however, has expressed unease with the proposed 40-cent hike.

Re-authorizing funding already dedicated to transit will also be a priority this session, Hornstein said, as will be concerns expressed by members over specific transit projects. Included in that list would be additional improvements to Highway 14 in southern Minnesota — a stretch of which was identified by the Department of Transportation as a trouble spot for head-on collisions — mentioned by both Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca) and Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake).

“It’s something we have to do,” Petersburg said. “…We’re anxious to get that done for safety reasons, as well as others.”

The committee’s first meeting was filled largely with member introductions and an overview of the committee process, with lawmakers sharing some of their early transportation memories.

Next week, the committee plans to meet with officials from MnDOT and regional transportation authorities.

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