Kicking the Can Down the Road

Can of Worms Intersection in Duluth,MN

Are you hearing (or perhaps voicing) complaints about delays on area roadways, road construction or the high price of gas?

Statements like “with the price of gas so high they should lower the gas tax”?

Of course, throw in the usual “all the roads in this area are in terrible shape.”

It seems that we, the traveling public, want to have it all: safe bridges, smooth roads, no construction delays—all at less cost.

A “Can of Worms” – Indeed!

The problem is, it takes time to reconstruct and maintain our infrastructure and it costs a lot of money to do so.

And the backlog of needed projects is growing.

Right here in Duluth, where the I-35 reconstruction project will cost a total of $81 million over two-plus years, the “can of worms” interchange, which contains 31 individual bridges, will also need repair and restoration to the tune of an estimated $250 million.  This will become a critical infrastructure need within the next 10 to 20 years–with no funding source yet identified.

Do (Lots) More with (Lots) Less

Today we are asking our road authorities (at the city, county and state) to do more with significantly fewer resources.

You may have heard by now of a recent survey by the Rockefeller Foundation, which found that two-thirds of the American public felt that a greater investment is needed in transportation infrastructure. Fully 80 percent of those surveyed agreed that spending on highways and bridges would produce jobs and economic growth, yet only 38 percent thought that federal spending should be increased and only 27 percent said that federal gas taxes should be raised to support this spending.

What the survey tells me is that we, as transportation planners and policy makers, have done a horrible job of helping the public understand transportation needs, transportation funding, and the consequences of failing to invest in transportation infrastructure.

Investing in transportation infrastructure supports multiple societal purposes besides our personal mobility, including American economic competitiveness, public health, environmental sustainability and energy independence.

If not addressed, many types of costs will be pushed out into the future.

What will our future generations say about this practice?  How happy would we have been if previous generations had done this to us?

We are committed to seeking out and incorporating stakeholder input as a key part of our planning work. That’s where this blog comes in. We hope you will learn a bit more about what we’re recommending for transportation improvements in this area, and why.

Please chime in with your comments and questions.