The governor’s new groove


Forced to choose only one, my personal favorite pothole is the extended rut that catches my tire every morning in the left lane of 35W North near Highway 62.

Anyone making his or her way along Minnesota’s streets this winter is bound to be angered by the condition of our roadways. The frustration caused by this year’s bumper crop of cracked, broken pavement is mounting. While the season’s cycle of melting and refreezing ice is the main culprit behind the formation of potholes, we can thank lean budgets for their ubiquity and staying power.

The current method of dealing with potholes is to send out a road crew to dump asphalt into the hole until it can be properly repaired after the spring thaw. Now Governor Pawlenty has determined filling in the pockmarks isn’t one of its responsibilities.

The cuts to the maintenance budget put the onus on city governments to pick up the slack, though they too have seen their budgets stretched beyond capacity. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities has found that 65 percent of Minnesota cities have cut back on road maintenance due to budget constraints. This means that these simple patches have often become the permanent fix.

And while MnDOT accepts claims to pay for damaged cars, their terms remain vague enough for most claims to be denied. Again, the department simply does not have the funds to pay to repair the roads or for the damaged caused by poor road conditions.

The problem is exacerbated as Minnesota’s cities and towns continue to expand its road network. Cities such as Dayton and Rogers are pressing to build an off ramp on Interstate 94 to attract more commerce and visitors to the area. The economic benefits to the area are obvious, though the requests come at a miserable time. The formula of more road surfaces minus fewer dollars for upkeep equals even poorer roads in the future. As we clamor to find money to construct new roads, but rarely is consideration given to the strains this places on maintenance budgets.

The governor’s new budget merely aggravates the problem.  Ultimately, the expense is pushed onto the shoulders of Minnesotans who are forced to pay higher property taxes only to receive little in return but cratered roads and car repair bills.

More and more, the solution to Minnesota’s problems is to just keep shoveling asphalt into the potholes.