Oberstar promotes tax increase plan


A congressional leader reiterated his belief that the United States should bump its gas tax to help increase funding for bridge repair.

Speaking before a joint meeting of the House and Senate transportation committees, U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) said it would “be a compounded tragedy,” if nothing more is done to increase transportation funding than to rebuild the Interstate 35W bridge.

Oberstar, who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said he will introduce a comprehensive plan to repair the nation’s bridges when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. In addition to improving bridge inspection requirements, Oberstar said the plan would provide dedicated funding, distribute funds based on need and it would establish a trust fund for repair or replacement of structurally deficient bridges.

Among the funding sources is a 5-cent increase in the federal gas tax for three years.

In a sometimes heated discussion, legislators and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who is also the transportation commissioner, spent more than one hour discussing state transportation funding. Although members agreed more funding is needed, the discussion was reminiscent of the 2007 session, including a gas tax increase and potential bonding.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included Minneapolis’ Statement of Principles for rebuilding the bridge, the use of design-build for the project and if funding to replace the I-35W bridge would impact other planned transportation projects in the state.

It was the second gathering in eight days for the committees, which plan to meet again. However, no date was set.