Minnesota Focuses 2015 Projects on Short-Term Repairs; MnDOT Warns on Funding

AASHTO Journal, 10 April 2015

The Minnesota Department of Transportation said its 2015 list of transportation projects will “provide shorter term fixes, rather than long-term solutions” to the state’s infrastructure needs.

That was among the cautionary statements from MnDOT and Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle as they said 290 projects are getting started to maintain Minnesota roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

MnDOT officials also said that “while this year’s program provides some significant maintenance work for the state transportation system … planning for future years indicates less revenue will be available under current funding levels, and much more work is needed to address the long-term challenges facing Minnesota’s transportation system.”

Meanwhile, Zelle said those revenue forecasts for MnDOT’s road and bridge work “show a sharp decrease in available funding for next year, given the needs in the system. They also show a slight increase the following year, and then another downturn in 2018.”

His remarks come as the state legislature considers legislation to boost transportation funding.

Besides those out-year forecasts, Zelle said: “Add to that the fact that we see significant declines in our pavements and anticipate the need for much more bridge work after 2018, and you can see very clearly the need for additional, sustainable transportation revenues.”

Zelle said over half of the state’s roadway pavements are more than 50 years old, and about 40 percent of the state’s bridges are also that age.

As to focusing much of this year’s available funds on short-term maintenance or repairs, he said: “We know that if we spend more on the initial fix, that we get a much better return on our investment. If we resurface a roadway with a few inches of asphalt, we know we can get several more years out of that road.

“But if we spend the time and make the necessary investments to rebuild that same stretch of road, we can get 20 years or more – preventing further deterioration, and ultimately saving time and taxpayer dollars.”

Zelle warned that as the transportation system ages it needs more work even as inflation cuts MnDOT’s purchasing power. So based on current projected funding levels, he said, “As we look out over the next 10 and 20 years, our planning tells us that we will not be able to produce programs that allow us to keep up with the needed repair and maintenance.”

MnDOT published a list of its 2015 projects including construction dates and effects on traffic.

It urged motorists to be alert in the many work zones they will encounter this construction season, by following speed posted limits, giving themselves extra travel time and minimizing distractions. It also directed them to check a road conditions site for up-to-date traffic information.

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