New players and transportation


With Tom Emmer’s concession clearing the way for a Mark Dayton governorship, we can finally look at the incoming governor’s transportation plans.

Before making any transportation spending decisions, Dayton plans to create a transportation finance panel to review funding options, revenue sources and transportation needs. As he said on the campaign trail, Dayton will focus on new ways to fund Minnesota’s transportation — without raising the gas tax, according to an October MPR News piece.

We can only hope that the new Republican legislative majority won’t block infrastructure improvements.

As far as regional planning, Dayton supports the role of the Metropolitan Council, and he also supports transit, from light rail to bus rapid transit. The MPR article points out that Dayton supports MnDOT’s new direction for highway planning as well, which switches the focus from unsustainable highway expansion to capitalizing on current infrastructure by using high-occupancy toll lanes and designated bus lanes.

The non-transportation plan

Another newly elected official has plans for transportation, and they are delivering a nasty shock to some in the 8th Congressional District. U.S. Representative-elect Chip Cravaack’s upset victory over longstanding Congressman Jim Oberstar has caused enormous ripples throughout the transportation community because Oberstar was a champion for transportation across the nation and an agent for transportation funding in Minnesota.

Cravaack, on the other hand, is part of the no-earmarks Tea Party, and unlike Bachmann and her claim that transportation earmarks aren’t earmarks, he appears to oppose transportation projects.

As MinnPost’s David Brauer points out, just six weeks after the Duluth News Tribune endorsed Cravaack for Congress, it has found his opinions on transportation hard to swallow. The opinion in question is Cravaack’s opposition to a new terminal at the Duluth International Airport, which he called a “pet” project that was likely more a “want” than a “need.”

The Duluth News Tribune posted an editorial entitled “Duluth airport project is pork? Hardly!,” which sums up the paper’s view pretty well. It argues that the new terminal is desperately needed, because the current terminal is inadequate, inaccessible, and even unsafe.

Additionally, the News Tribune quotes the airport’s executive director as saying that no earmarks have been involved in the project at all. This leaves Cravaack’s quick judgment with little ground, unless he is ready to oppose transportation out and out.

This brief summary makes it seem as though transportation spending is going to fall on partisan lines in the coming years, which may mean gridlock will stand in the way of any infrastructure progress. Elected officials can change their tone, however, and we hope the new crop of lawmakers work together to move Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure forward.

Efficient transportation is hardly just a “want” for any state or country.