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Tuesday Talk: How was the ride?

November 29, 2011 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

This year’s $500 million bonding bill provided Minnesota money to improve infrastructure. It’s a start but it doesn’t meet Minnesota’s need.

Your Thanksgiving travel likely revealed crumbling and quick-patched highways and roads. With plenty of state capacity to borrow and general obligation bond interest at an all-time low of 2.8 percent, Minnesota could improve more highways with 2012 legislative session bonding.

Were the roads better than in years past? What Minnesota roads need the most improvement?  

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  • Denny Barry says:

    November 29, 2011 at 9:08 am

    The poor road surfaces have played a large part in my decision to not purchase a motorcycle . I have hit and observed holes and gaps while driving my car that would of been at or above the limits of maintaining control on two wheels . I road cycle through the 70’s and 80’s before the money saving measures were initiated . Hwy 236 that runs south of hwy 10 just east of Dilworth is an example of cost cutting with trafiic safety being jeapordized .
    Not having turn lanes off from a high traffic , high speed expressway is absurd . Slowing down in traffic to make a 90 degree right turn in the traffic lane to then accelerate back up to speed to match traffic on I-94 or Hwy 10 is dangerous enough in perfect conditons . With snow and ice and the lurking truck behind or on motorcycle it can become the site of more plastic flowers in the ditch , the space where the turn lane should of been built .  The extended time frame of repainting fog lines , centerlines and lane markings has also contributed to added risk with money savings being the reason . But eh how much is a life worth compared to keeping Pawlenty’s NO Tax pledge ?
    I once had a great Dr. Ed instructor that made this concept clear . If one hits a pothole it cost ( at the time) around $45.00 for an alignment and new shock , if all of us pay enough in taxes to keep the pothole from happenning we will really save money , and be safer . Pay now or pay later .

  • Rob says:

    November 29, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Heading “Up North” for the Thanksgiving holiday from the TwinCities. I noticed my favorite pothole - nicknamed Lake Pawlenty after the former Minnesota Governor - was repaired. The land of 10,000 lakes is now the land of 9,999 lakes.

    The pothole was memorable for a few reasons: it was large enough to have ripples on windy days and it had weeds growing along its shoreline resembling min-white pine trees. I was tempted to take pictures, but is was on an interstate highway.

    Obama’s Recovery Act has made a huge difference on 35W. About 20 miles of the apprimately 120 miles were new cement. A huge improvement.

  • Mike Downing says:

    November 29, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Of course the roads were better in the 1970s & 1980s than they are today. Long ago our legislature started to move money out of the transportation department to fund their pet social programs. On top of that, the legislature then diverted some of the remaining funds from roads to LRT. Our roads suffered by the poor decisions by our legislature.

    Yet the MN economy is based on getting products to consumers via our roads. Our legislature have been idiots for 40 years!

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    November 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I remmember the Counties Assosiations plan the legislature put in place just befor the recession, that was suppose to fix the 10 plus year lag in road repair. I was amoung those who felt it was too little too late. That failure coupled with the steady increases in social program funding have undermined road repair. Using bonding to catch up may not be a bad idea if it can find a balanced spin rather than having to be a proggresive victory.

  • TONY says:

    November 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Sorry Mike, highway funds are dedicated. Can’t be used to help those lazy handicapped people. Yes, we are using more money for light rail & BRT with amazing success. The most often question I get as a county official is when is BRT or LRT comming to our neighborhood. Govt. is responding to the people.

  • William Pappas says:

    November 30, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Driving home to Stillwater through Wisconsin Sunday night I crossed the Stillwater Lift Bridge around 8:00 PM.  There was litterally no other traffic on the bridge.  Is this the bridge our state needs to pony up 380 million for its share?  Is this the supposed crossing that must have a freeway style megabridge to handle escalating traffic volume?  With so many structurally deficient bridges in Minnesota, the 700 million dollar megabridge litterally guts the transportation budget for several years at a time when dollars must be stretched.  The current design for the mega bridge was conceived in the early 90’s when gas, commuting costs, real estate values and MNDOT road policy were radically different than they are now.  Essentially the planned freeway style bridge is an antique before it has even been built.  It would be extremely beneficial for Minnesota if MNDOT would reexamine their priorities and reconsider the cost and scale of such an unnecessarily large span that will only stimulate more connecting roads that require even more tax payer money.  Traffic counts cannot be revised downward fast enough to keep pace with the changing demographics of Western Wisconsin.  Abandon this “cash hog” and fix the other broken bridges that are actually more of a danger to the public.

  • Dan Conner says:

    December 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Well, I just back from 3 weeks in Japan and noticed and enormous difference in roaqd quality.  Japanese roads are pristine!  There is hardly a crack in the roads, let alone no pot holes.  The have all sorts of mass transit trains, including bullet trains that ride extremely fast and ultra smooth.

    If Japan can keep their infrastucture updated and in great shape, why can’t we?  And we beat them in WWII?  Our people get in big arguments spending money on anything to help people or improve our country.  Well, we’re getting what we pay for.

  • Mike Downing says:

    December 5, 2011 at 6:05 pm


    You must be suffering from jet lag since you did not think before sending your note regarding Japanese roads. Do you think Japanese road quality has anything to do with the fact that the Japanese landmass is slightly smaller than California?!

  • Dan Conner says:

    December 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm


    Road quality relating to the size of the country?  You seem to be studying at the school of apples and oranges.  First, Japan is about the size of California, but they have almost half as any people as the US.  It’s population is over 140,000,000 people, or about 3 times that of California.  Then, considering that it is only the coastal areas that are practically habitable, means there is a far greater population density than the US.  The Tokyo area has about 35,000,000 people living in it.

    All of the above means that there is far more traffic running on their roads, adding to an accelerated deterioration.  Its traffic density is far more than ours.  This compounds the problems maintaining the roads and means roads have to be maintained more often.

    The difference between us and Japan is that they care more about their infrastructure and maintain it for a more efficient economy.  The US seems momentarily saddled with too many selfish and greedy people to progress into the future.

    I would suggest that Mike better think over his responses to make sure his thinking is relative and logical.  The size of the country does not necessarily mean anything about the condition of roads, when no other factors are considered.  That’s poor analytical thinking.

  • Mike Downing says:

    December 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm


    Do you not understand the relationship of population density to transportation? A population of 130 million in a landmass of less than California makes transportation an extremely easy task compared to low population density countries such as the U.S. Additionally, mass transit is extremely easy with Japan’s high population density.

    Whereas, mass transit with the low U.S. population density is extremely difficult and economically feasible in only high density cities (Twin Cities is not one!).

    Your ignorance of a basic principle of transportation is simply astonishing!

  • Dan Conner says:

    December 7, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Mike, your inability to understand and issue is showing.  We were discussing the construction and maintenance of roads.  In particlular, I mentioned the outstanding shape of Japanese roads, which, by the way has nothing to do with transportation, other than facilitating it.

    Somehow, you have gone off on some tangent on the general topic of transportation, which I would gladly discuss with you, but you completely miss the topic of construction and maintenance of roads.  You have now begun and argument with yourself about density of population and its relationship with transportation.

    Density of population and amount of traffic have a pronounced affect on maintenance of roads, being a prime ingredient in road maintenance.  Just so you Tea Partiers cans understand, more vehicled using a road means more wear and tear on a road.  Japan having a far far greater density of people and vehicle traffic compounds the problems of road maintenance and construction, period.  You need to keep your mind on the subject and out of the “ether.”

    While I’m not a civil engineer, at least I can understand the topic of discussion.  I guess you just want to divert the discussion when you lose and argument?

  • Mike Downing says:

    December 7, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Dan, I am an engineer so I have an overdeveloped left brain whereas you have an overdeveloped right brain. Yes, high population density usually means high maintenance cost per mile. Japan has far fewer miles of roads per million population tan the US so road maintenance is not an issue for Japan. High population density also provides economically viable mass transit. Japan has great mass transit since the number of miles of mass transit is very small compared to what the U.S. needs for mass transit. Your example of a high population density country like Japan is not an apple to orange comparison but an apple to hamburger comparison.

    I recall you were the one bringing up Japan, not me……

  • Dan Conner says:

    December 9, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Mike—the only factor to be considered for Japan vs the US is that Japan has the best roads in the world (  It makes no difference about miles per million.  Japan also has one of the most efficient and highest quality passenger railroads in the world, while the US has a negligible passenger railroad.  So, in that respect, Japan greatly exceeds passenger railway miles per million people. 

    Whatever Japan does, they do it with quality and the maintain it with quality.  We do not.  You can come up with every excuse imaginable, but the US quality and efficiency of roads and and passenger rail are greatly inferior to Japan.  Why aren’t we spending proportionately more dollars per mile/passenger to maintain/build our systems?  Making comparisons of size has nothing to do with its state of repair.  Plainly, whatever the Japanese do they do it well, including repair.  We do not.  They also pay to do that.  We do not.

    The same attitude is migrating into education.  The political right refuses to spend money to maintain a high standard of education.  That will take a toll in quality of education.  The hypocrisy of people here is that Americans don’t blink spending $30,000/yr per student to educate American kids overseas (American International Schools), but they wail when asked to spend $10,000/year per child here in the US.  I think it really shows an attitude that Americans don’t want to spend money for educating others, but want others to spend thousands educating their children.  That’s selfishness.

    What illustrates selfishness even more is people who have been educated at public universities (heavily subsidized by state governments), but who want to cut funding to those universities for succeeding generations.  It’s more of the “I’ve got mine so to heck with you” attitude.

    Too many in the US want to avoid paying taxes at the expense of our infrastructure.  That attitude is evident in education, roads, bridges, or any other government subsidized function.  The inevitable outcome is deteriorating schools, bridges, roads, education of our children, and quality of life in the US.

    I listen to foolish people making claims that reduced state taxes are needed to attract businesses to Minnesota.  That’s plain BS.  Minnesota has always been among the highest taxing states.  However, it enjoys one of the highest standard of living among the states.  It has one of the most educated workforces in the country and people with a good work ethic.  Businesses have eagerly come to Minnesota.  Not for the wweather or taxes.  If taxes were such an attractant, then South Dakota would have passed Minnesota years ago, but quite the reverse holds true.

    I think it is important to remember that people don’t flock to states, or any organization for that matter, when that entity strives for mediocrity, being a poor performer, or being on the bottom of expectations.  Mike, if you strove to be a poor engineer that’s your business, but I don’t feel that should be the objective for others.