This week the Minnesota Department of Transportation released its fifth Annual Transportation Performance Report, which describes trends in the condition and service levels provided by Minnesota’s transportation systems.
The report shows that 2012 highway and bridge condition, although not quite achieving MnDOT’s statewide targets, was better than in 2011. It also projects progress improvements as the agency continues its Better Roads for a Better Minnesota (paving) initiative and completes remaining bridge projects funded through the state’s 2008 Chapter 152 Bridge Bonding Program. Those projects include the Highway 23 Desoto Bridge in St. Cloud, the U.S. 61 bridge in Hastings and the Dresbach Bridge on I-90, among others.
“The challenge is that these are limited, one-time investment programs, not the sustainable long-term funding needed to plan and invest for future transportation needs,” said Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle.
“Minnesota has the nation’s fifth-largest highway system, with more than 140,000 miles of state, county and local roads, and more than 20,000 bridges. As in many other states, it’s an aging system that is costly just to maintain. Fifty percent of our state highway pavements alone are 50 years old and 35 percent of MnDOT bridges are more than 50 years old,” he said.
Without additional, long-term funding state transportation needs will significantly outpace existing revenue sources during the next 20 years – the $12 billion state highway and bridge gap projected in 2013 by the Minnesota 20-year State Highway Investment Plan, Zelle said.
“This looming funding challenge provides an important context for evaluating the system’s current performance. Absent new sources of revenue, many of the gains reported here will be lost by the end of the decade,” he added.
For now, MnDOT – like so many other state transportation departments facing the same dilemma – must work within its means by focusing on the best value for taxpayer dollars, and being accountable and transparent with investments, Zelle said.