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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

Bonding roads is right direction

TBy Shannon Fiecke

the Daily’s Nov. 25 story about the Hiawatha light rail corridor development problems, “Light rail’s imminent arrival spurs neighborhood concerns,” shows the purpose of the light rail system is not cleaner, more efficient transportation. Instead, the goal is “smart growth” designed to control our lives.

The Metropolitan Council is deeply concerned over the lack of dense population along the Hiawatha corridor line. Its worries are needless because if its proposed rail system actually works, development will naturally occur. A stereotypical young adult who works in Minneapolis and likes living in a packed urban center would move into such an area.

But the members of the Metropolitan Council are trying to force everyone to live like that. They hate urban sprawl; their cronies want us to all live like sardines in huge skyscrapers along their light rail lines.

Minnesota is facing a $4.5 billion deficit caused by a decade of spending that has nearly doubled our state’s budget. To create its wonder world, the council is pushing an inefficient and costly light rail system that will further choke our state economy and ruin the chance of actually having an efficient rail system.

The only way to increase our state’s budget is to increase production output, creating additional tax revenues. Besides lowering taxes and cutting spending, the quickest method of improving our economy will be to increase state commerce through faster in-state transport of goods and services.

Right now, our groceries sit rotting on Interstate 35. Work hours are lost to increasing commutes. Rather than shopping on my way home, I skip it to beat rush hour. But when is rush hour on Interstate 494, anyway?

Because of traffic congestion, employees are limited in job choice, diminishing comparative advantage. It is not just problematic for Minneapolis workers but also those who work in the suburbs where most of the economic growth will take place.

Our highway money spent on road construction ranks 49th in the nation because we spend it on everything but roads. Traffic volume has increased by 33 percent in the last decade, while road capacity has only increased by 2 percent. Meanwhile, transportation funding has doubled.

In 2002, less than one-third of the motor vehicle sales taxes were earmarked for the road budget. In the next 10 years, $4.5 billion in car taxes will be transferred into transit and the general fund.

Minnesota families pay the fourth-highest state taxes in the nation, on average annually dishing out $16,000 in taxes. But if we want more roads, we are told we must pay the additional proposed 5 cent gas tax the Minnesota Department of Finance estimates would only result in an additional $180 million a year.

The Metropolitan Council’s mass transit plan will not work either. By the time we would actually get enough legs in the right places, our economy will be far behind and we will have a bill we can never pay.

Mass transit, especially light rail, is inefficient and cost prohibitive. More than $675 million is being spent for a small line in Minneapolis that will transport an estimated 24,000 people. For $848 million in increased road capacity, 500,000 daily people would benefit.

Approximately $1.29 in taxes will be spent on each light rail passenger per mile traveled, but even commuter rail costs less at 33 cents per mile traveled, and roads actually bring a profit of 2 cents, according to National Transit Profiles 2000. Roads profit because of increased commerce.

Immediately bonding a few billion dollars for roads will be the fastest and most effective measure to quickly increase state revenue and expand the metropolitan area. It is similar to a loan for a house or college education, which is an investment that pays off. Without it, saving ahead of time for the purchase does not work. New taxpayers and increased revenue will pay for the bonded roads. Schools and cities do the same thing when they bond for schools and other projects.

Building roads to keep up – or shall I say catch up – with population increases will create tax surpluses. Only when our economy rebounds and we regain state surpluses will we have the resources to invest in more costly but environmentally friendly mass transit. And then we should build commuter rail in places that people will actually use it. Not this more expensive light rail, a new, untried technology that is impossible to move with changing population patterns.

By putting moratoriums on road construction, the Metropolitan Council has helped create this congestion problem. Instead of keeping up with transportation needs, the government has created the congestion mess to force us to believe that light rail and “smart growth” are our only ways out.

The Metropolitan Council’s social engineering plans will drown our economy. Without immediately adding road capacity, our metropolitan area will not grow, and the council’s dreams of a web haven of rail will never occur.

Shannon Fiecke is University senior majoring in journalism. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]
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