Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Praying for transportation

The Star Tribune had an article this morning about a hold up in the Crosstown – 35W reconstruction project. It seems that potential bidders are leery about the deal. Spotty just cannot understand why. Here’s the plan:

Okay, we’ll let you build the highway, contractors, but you also have to loan us $96 million dollars over three years. We think we can come up with the rest of the $50 million we’re still short by nicking it from other projects. Not sure, you understand, but work with us here. The total project is $250 million or so, so we do have some money!

And this gives the potential bidders pause? What a bunch of pikers and scrubs! Rep. Ron Cassandra Erhardt has been predicting problems in transportation finance for a quite a long time. In a town hall meeting prior to the current session, he said (from a report of Spot’s about the meeting):

Here, the news was grim. Rep. Ron Erhardt, the chair of the Transportation Finance committee, and who got out of his sickbed with pneumonia to attend the session, brought a little chart. It showed a gap between the “performance-based needs” of transportation (apparently based on DOT forecasts) and funding that will be available of $24.1 billion dollars between 2008 and 2030. Money needed: $38.1 billion; money available: $14.5 billion. Spotty isn’t sure whether the money available includes the motor vehicle sales tax dedication that will occur if the referendum on the subject passes this fall. Regardless, the gap is a boatload of money.

[Rep. Neil] Peterson and Erhardt – but not [Sen. Geoff] Michel – support the idea of a gasoline tax increase to cover at least part of this gap. The governor’s idea is to borrow billions, rather than incur the wrath of Davey Strom & Co., and that seems to be Michel’s position as well. Michel denied that his vote against the gas tax increase last year had anything to do with the No New Taxes Ever, I Really Mean It, Cross My Heart and Hope to Die pledge he made when he was elected to the Senate, but Spotty thinks he doth protest too much.

We cannot bond our way out of our transportation problems without wrecking the state’s bond rating.
Erhardt and a couple of other Republicans (maybe Peterson was aboard, too, but Spot isn’t sure) and the House Democrats made another run at raising the gasoline tax this session, but it won’t go anywhere.

What do you bet that the month delay in the project announced by the DOT stretches into more?

So, south metro residents, while you sit in traffic on our clogged arteries as your own arteries clog, think about the faith-based funding that is making it all possible. Where is that darn rapture when we need it most?

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