Minnesota mayors to state officials: Fund the “first and last mile traveled”
More than 180 cities call for dedicated dollars to maintain city streets
(April 27, 2015—St. Paul, Minn.) When the state government provides funding for construction and maintenance of Minnesota’s roadways to get residents from place to place, it’s often the first and last mile traveled that gets ignored – in other words, our city streets. That was the message from more than 20 mayors who gathered today for a press conference held at the League of Minnesota Cities in St. Paul. Mayors in attendance were united in urging state leaders to pass transportation funding legislation that includes dedicated funding for city streets.
Though city streets are essential to mobility and economic vitality in Minnesota communities, funding for those streets has remained unaddressed in transportation funding bills for over a decade. Currently, the Municipal State Aid (MSA) system is limited to cities with populations over 5,000—only 147 of 852 cities in Minnesota—and cannot be applied to more than 20 percent of a city’s lane miles. Existing MSA is not meeting the needs of our cities. Additionally, property taxes and special assessments have limited use, leaving cities under-equipped to address growing needs.
“A street project is really much more than pavement on surface. Street lights, traffic signals, railroad crossings and storm sewers are often necessary,” said Jo Emerson, Mayor of White Bear Lake and League of Minnesota Cities board member. “We need additional, dedicated and sustainable funding for our city streets. The current system is straining city budgets and forcing cities to delay maintenance and construction.”
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman pointed to a list of over 180 cities whose councils have adopted resolutions for dedicated street funding “The reality is that potholes are not partisan problems and they affect every community in our state—large and small, rural and urban. We need a solution that gets us beyond the politics and helps us fix and maintain our city streets, which for many are the first and last mile traveled.”
“Dedicated funding for city streets is a must-do for the legislature this session. Failure to do so places the burden of paying for crumbling infrastructure on property tax payers, including those on fixed incomes, like many seniors. Property taxpayers across Minnesota, not only in Minneapolis, will be left footing the bill, and that’s unacceptable,” said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.
Mayors Emerson, Coleman, and Hodges were joined at the podium by Mayor Fred Froehlich of Nicollet, Mayor Dan Bender of Red Wing, and Mayor Hank Ludtke of Frazee, who each shared examples of why their cities could benefit from dedicated street funding. Others in attendance included mayors from the cities of Blue Earth, Breezy Point, Coon Rapids, Delano, Fergus Falls, Gaylord, Hawley, Mabel, Maplewood, Medford, Rogers, Rush City, Shakopee, Tamarack, and Wabasha.
Without ongoing maintenance, the average life expectancy of local streets is 25-30 years. Maintenance projects like seal coating and overlays, though, can prolong a street’s lifecycle to 50-60 years. Currently, no city in Minnesota has the financial ability to maintain roadway capital improvements for more than a 50-year life cycle.