THUMBS DOWN: A report from Transportation for America released Tuesday shows that Minnesota ranks 34th in the nation when it comes to the overall condition of the state's bridges. "The Fix We're In: The State of Minnesota's Bridges" finds that drivers in Minnesota are regularly traveling across heavily trafficked bridges with "poor" ratings bridges that could become dangerous or closed without repair. After the I-35 bridge collapse in 2007, Minnesota passed the Trunk Highway Bridge Improvement Program that provides $2.5 billion in state funds over 10 years to rehabilitate or reconstruct structurally deficient bridges, prioritizing those with higher traffic volumes and those classified as "fracture critical." This effort has improved Minnesota's network of bridges, but problems remain. Minnesota's average is 35.2 years old. Lincoln County is among the top 5 when it comes to worst average bridge conditions in Minnesota, as nearly 20 percent (20 out of 102 bridges) are deemed structurally deficient, the report said. In rural areas, bridges provide critical access to jobs and medical services and any federal money spent to shore up bridges in a preventative measure is money well spent. Bridges are the kind of infrastructure that require proactive, not reactive solutions.
THUMBS UP: A thumbs up for cold weather? No, we're not kidding. This current stretch of below-average temperatures not only serves to remind us we live in Minnesota and winters can drag on far too long, it also is beneficial when it comes to spring flooding. Cold weather - anything below freezing - prevents melting and runoff into our already swollen rivers. It delays flooding and gives rivers and streams and diversion channels the chance to catch up a little from last week's aggressive melt. Fear not, it supposed to warm up again next week - hopefully not too much though. Too much of a good thing, in this case, warm weather, would hurt more than it would help.
More to celebrate from our high school athletes
THUMBS UP: Ten years ago, both Marshall High School basketball teams reached the state tournament, a feat that doesn't happen too often in smaller, rural communities. The two teams pulled it off this year after the boys defeated rival Worthington in last week's section final thriller. Like the girls team, the Tiger boys were one-and-done at this year's state tournament, but as a community, Marshall should be proud of its athletes and their coaches. Having two teams from the same city represent their section is quite a story, regardless of how they fared on the big stage.
Sunday liquor sales
THUMBS DOWN: Proposed legislation to allow liquor stores to sell on Sundays is a colossal waste of time and should only be addressed by the Legislature after it takes care of more important issues like the $5 billion deficit the state is facing. It seems to us that passing this bill would serve only a handful of businesses throughout the state. And the argument that liquor stores have a choice in opening on Sundays falls on deaf ears in this area and really doesn't amount to much of a choice at all - if one liquor store opens, its competition would have no other choice than to open as well, against its will, and risk increased expenses with no guarantee of substantial business. Sundays are for church, relaxing and getting yard work done, not for beer runs.