MARSHALL - It was a chance to be heard on state roads and transportation issues, but attendance for a Minnesota Department of Transportation hearing was sparse on Monday afternoon. As MnDOT offices around the state checked in by teleconference, Marshall was one of several with no members of the public present to give comment.
MnDOT was gathering public testimony on a draft of its new 20-year State Highway Investment Plan. The plan lays out strategies for improving Minnesota transportation systems, priorities for MnDOT spending, as well as planned investments over the next several years. The public comment period for the plan ends Wednesday.
MnDOT is required to update the plan every four years. The last highway investment plan was completed in 2009.
The draft plan being considered by MnDOT projects that there will not be enough revenue during the next 20 years to cover all the state highway system's needs - MnDOT will have about $18 billion in revenue, compared to $30 billion in needs. The plan's executive summary notes that half of all state highway pavements, and 35 percent of state highway bridges, are more than 50 years old and will need increased attention. A variety of factors, from state and federal requirements to public comments, also need to be considered when setting spending priorities, the summary said.
MnDOT gathered public feedback last fall through an outreach program including statewide meetings and an interactive website tool.
The draft plan discussed Monday divided highway system needs into a total of 10 investment categories, ranging from bridge and pavement maintenance to safety and regional and community improvement projects. Under the draft plan, improving bridge and pavement conditions and roadside infrastructure would account for about 67 percent of MnDOT investments in the next 10 years. Those three investment categories would become even more prominent in the final 10 years of the plan, accounting for more than 88 percent of MnDOT's total investments.
Of the 10 investment categories identified in the draft plan, only one - interregional corridor mobility - was not identified for any investments in the next 20 years. That drew criticism from some commenters on Monday. St. Michael City Administrator Steve Bot said it was "disturbing and shocking" that interregional corridor development was left out of the plan. The highways designated as interregional corridors are important for both commerce and safety concerns in the areas they serve, he said.
There were apparently only a few people statewide who wished to testify at Monday's hearing. Other speakers included coalitions urging highway expansions along the Interstate 94 corridor in the St. Cloud area, and on U.S. Highway 14 between Rochester and New Ulm.
Public comment will be considered before a final highway plan is approved in August. Full copies of the draft highway plan are available at www.dot.state.mn.us/planning/minship/index.html. The public can also submit comments on the plan at www.dot.state.mn.us/planning/mnship/commentform.html.