Report gives Minnesota infrastructure a 'C' grade — roads scored even lower

It's better than the national average, but still concerning, experts say.

Sloane Martin
October 09, 2018 - 1:13 pm

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While Minnesota did better than the national average, an infrastructure report issued today from the America Society of Civil Engineers gave the state a "C."

Minnesota Sen. Scott Dibble, ranking minority member of the Transportation Finance and Policy Committee and Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL lead of the Capital Investment Committee, say they haven't heard much approaching the highly-anticipated midterm election about funding the state's aging infrastructure.

They want that to change because without major fixes, Minnesotans will pay, one way or the other. 

"Research, evidence and public opinion have to be translated into political pressure," Dibble said. "Gutting transit, borrowing money for roads, we can't keep doing that."

"That's why we have to listen to these reports to say, 'What are our priorities? What is our priority right now?" Hausman said.

The new report, which is online here, found that Minnesota's infrastructure is "mediocre" and "requires attention."

It examined aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, ports, roads, transit and wastewater. The highest grade was a "B" for aviation, but drinking water scored a "C-" and roads a "D+." The grades are calculated averages which means many under-served communities, particularly in Greater Minnesota and communities of color, scored even lower.

Improving infrastructure has been a focal point at the capitol for years, especially after the I-35W bridge collapse, but deep disagreement remains over how to fund long-term fixes, with heavily debated options including a bonding bill, a gas tax, or raising taxes.

Experts say the decades-long trend of not being able to depend on the federal government to fix budget shortfalls will likely continue, forcing local governments to work cooperatively elsewhere. Mayor Pat Elliott says the city of Richfield has found success in improving its infrastructure over the last couple of years. It's been inconvenient (just try traversing the length of Richfield along 66th Street), but critical.

"The citizens need to understand that in order for us to adequately manage our tax levies and everything else they've got to be vocal about helping us," he said."Helping us afford the things that need to be done to keep our citizens and our cities vibrant."

ASCE is calling on the legislature to develop long-term transportation funding, local governments to share maintenance reports and the establishment of asset management programs to collect and track data.