The hunt is on for new ways to pay to fix and expand Minnesota's transportation infrastructure.
It's a tall order. According to one estimate, the state could spend more than $670 million a year for the next two decades just to fix existing roads. New roads? That's another big dollar sign.
Those numbers require much more money than the state itself can line up in an era of budget deficits and projected 20 percent cuts in federal funding for roads.
Without innovation, work won't get done and the state's growth could be stunted.
It's all about jobs, says Minnesota Department of Transportation official Phil Barnes.
Transportation projects are more than temporary construction jobs, says Barnes, assistant director of the office of policy analysis, research and innovation at MnDOT.
Permanent jobs, too, are added as expanding businesses seek out improved highways that allow workers to travel more efficiently.
"Transportation always creates some construction jobs," Barnes said. "But how can you get great job creation performance out of each project? That's what excites me about moving toward more public-private partnerships."
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