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New National Pact Tackles Road Owners’ Toughest Issues

New TRIP Report Identifies Minnesota’s Top Transportation Challenges And Needed Fixes, Including Deteriorated And Congested Roadways, Deficient Bridges, Needed Safety Improvements And Transit Deficiencies

TRIPDeteriorated and congested roads, deficient bridges, needed safety improvements and transit deficiencies in Minnesota are posing mounting challenges to the state’s residents, visitors and businesses in the form of lost time, increased vehicle operating costs and the financial burden of making needed transportation improvements.  This is according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research organization.

The report, Minnesota’s Transportation Challenges and the Improvements Needed to Address Them,” identifies segments of the state’s major roads and highways that have significant levels of traffic congestion; sections of major roads or highways that have significant pavement deterioration and need to be reconstructed; needed safety improvements to segments of state roadways; major bridges in the state that have significant deficiencies and need to be rebuilt or reconstructed; and, transit routes or facilities that do not provide adequate mobility because they are overcrowded, deficient or underfunded. Details for all of the state’s transportation challenges can be found in the report’s Appendices.

The total cost of addressing the roadway challenges identified in this report is between $7.1 and $9.4 billion. Currently, no funding is available to address the roadway challenges identified in the report. An additional $171 to $181 million annually would be needed to adequately construct and operate the state’s public transit system in a way that would address Minnesota’s public transit challenges.  This funding is also not available. These costs are not meant to represent all transportation needs in Minnesota, but only those identified in the TRIP report.

“Maintaining county highways and city streets so they are safe and in good repair is important to Minnesota residents and businesses,” said Ken Brown, Olmstead County Commissioner. “Without adequate state resources, local governments have to rely more and more on property tax dollars to repair critical infrastructure. This increasing burden on our property taxes means we continue to fall further behind in maintaining our infrastructure here in Minnesota.”

According to the TRIP report, nearly a third of Minnesota’s major roads are in need of repair, with 12 percent rated in poor condition and an additional 19 percent rated mediocre in 2010. The roadway sections in need of reconstruction include principal and non-principal arterials throughout the state, as well as sections of I-94 in the Twin Cities and West Central Minnesota, I-90 in Southern Minnesota, US 61 in Red Wing, MN 43 in Winona and MN 194 in Duluth. A full list of regionally significant roads and highways that are in need of reconstruction or significant preservation can be found in Appendix A.

Minnesota also faces a significant challenge in the need to reconstruct or repair numerous major bridges in the state, including several that cross the Mississippi River. A total of 11 percent of bridges in Minnesota show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. Significant bridges in need of repair or replacement include the Third Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis; the Mendota Bridge (TH 55) in Bloomington; the I-35 Bridge in Duluth; and the multi-modal bridge in St. Paul carrying Robbins Street, the University of Minnesota Transitway and a railroad.  A list of deficient bridges of regional importance that present the most significant challenges to the state can be found in Appendix B.

Commuting and commerce in Minnesota are constrained by growing traffic congestion, particularly in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.  The improvements needed to relieve congestion and enhance mobility as determined by TRIP include the following: capacity enhancements, roadway reconstruction, managed lanes and improved traffic management on multiple sections of roadway in the Twin Cities Metro Area (including sections of I-35W, I-35E, I-94, I-394, I-694, and MN 100), and enhancements that would promote economic development opportunities along crucial statewide connector routes such as US 169 in Itasca County, US 14 in Dodge and Steele Counties, and MN 371 in Crow Wing County. A list of segments of roadway that are congested, contain chokepoints that hamper commuting or commerce, or lack an adequate facility to fully support economic development opportunities can be found in Appendix C.

Enhancing critical segments of Minnesota’s transportation system will boost the state’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs in construction and related fields.  In the long term these improvements will enhance economic competitiveness and improve the quality of life for the state’s residents and visitors by reducing travel delays and transportation costs, improving access and mobility, improving safety, and stimulating sustained job growth.  Sustaining Minnesota’s long-term economic growth and maintaining the state’s high quality of life will require increased investment in expanding the capacity of the state’s transportation system, which will enhance business productivity and support short- and long-term job creation in the state.

The roadway corridors most in need of safety improvements to reduce the occurrence of crashes and fatalities include the following: system-wide enhancements to the state’s Trunk Highway System, including the addition of rumble strips, the construction of cable median barriers, additional signage, and intersection improvements; the statewide implementation of conflict warning systems on rural intersections; and the removal of at-grade railroad crossings of major highways in Anoka, Cannon Falls, Crosby and Ramsey.A list of the state’s most significant safety challenges can be found in Appendix E.

Minnesota’s transit system is overburdened, leading to gaps in service and reliability along key transit routes. Minnesota’s current transit needs include the following: expanding bus service in the Twin Cities metropolitan area; increasing funding to build out the transitway network in the Twin Cities region as planned by the Metropolitan Council and the Counties Transit Improvement Board; the addition of Bus Rapid Transit corridors; and increased operating funds for numerous transit systems. A list of existing or lacking transit facilities, or routes that hamper commuting or commerce because they are deteriorated or crowded can be found in Appendix D.

“Investing in Minnesota’s transportation system and eliminating these challenges by improving the condition and efficiency of the state’s roads, bridges and transit systems will be an effective step in growing the state’s economy, enhancing quality of life and making Minnesota an attractive place to live, work and visit,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.

Executive Summary

Minnesota’s extensive system of roads, highways, bridges and transit provides the state’s residents, visitors and businesses with a high level of mobility. As the backbone of the North Star State’s economy, Minnesota’s surface transportation system plays a vital role in the state’s economic well-being, and is an integral part of what makes Minnesota an attractive place to live, visit and do business.

However, increasing roadway and bridge deterioration, traffic safety concerns, inadequate transit service and growing congestion threaten to stifle economic growth and negatively impact the quality of life of the state’s 5.3 million residents.  Due to insufficient transportation funding at the federal, state and local level, Minnesota faces numerous challenges in providing a road, highway, bridge and transit network that is smooth, well-maintained, as safe as possible, and that affords a level of mobility capable of supporting the state’s economic goals.

As Minnesota looks to build and maintain a thriving and diverse economy, it will need to modernize its transportation system by improving the physical condition of its roads, highways, bridges, and transit systems and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient, safe and reliable mobility to the state’s residents, visitors and businesses.  Making needed improvements to Minnesota’s surface transportation system would provide a significant boost to the state’s economy by stimulating short and long-term economic growth.

Numerous segments of Minnesota’s surface transportation system have significant deterioration, are congested or crowded, lack some desirable safety features, and do not have adequate capacity to provide reliable mobility, creating challenges for Minnesota’s residents, visitors, businesses and state and local governments.  This report looks at the condition and use of Minnesota’s system of roads, highways, transit and bridges and provides information on the state’s most pressing transportation challenges and the improvements needed to address these challenges.

Deficient roads, highways, bridges and transit systems and crowded or congested routes in Minnesota are posing mounting challenges to the state’s residents, visitors and businesses in the form of lost time, increased vehicle operating costs and the financial burden of making needed transportation improvements. 

  • TRIP has identified Minnesota’s top surface transportation challenges, which include the following: segments of the state’s major roads and highways that have significant levels of traffic congestion; sections of major roads or highways that have significant pavement deterioration and need to be resurfaced or reconstructed; needed safety improvements to segments of state roadways; major bridges in the state that have significant deficiencies and need to be rebuilt or reconstructed; and transit routes or facilities that do not provide adequate mobility because they are overcrowded, deficient or underfunded.
  • The report contains lists of the state’s most pressing challenges as determined by TRIP in five categories: roadway deterioration, congested routes, deficient bridges, roadway safety and transit. Lists of challenges in each category can be found in Appendices A through E.
  • The total cost of addressing the state’s top transportation challenges identified in this report is between $7.1 and $9.4 billion.  An additional $171 to $181 million annually would be needed to adequately operate public transit service needed to address Minnesota’s public transit challenges.  These costs are not meant to represent all transportation needs in Minnesota, but only those identified in the TRIP report.
  • Currently there is no funding available to address the challenges identified in this report.

Growth in population and vehicle travel has far outstripped the current capacity of Minnesota’s transportation system. The state’s population and economy will continue to grow in the future, bringing mounting challenges for the existing network of roads and bridges.

  • Minnesota’s system of 141,482 miles of roads and 13,117 bridges carries approximately 57 billion vehicle miles of travel annually.
  • From 1990 to 2011, Minnesota’s population increased by 21 percent, from approximately 4.4 million to approximately 5.3 million. Minnesota’s population is expected to increase to 6.2 million by 2030.
  • From 1990 to 2010, annual vehicle-miles-of-travel (VMT) in the state increased by 45 percent, from approximately 39 billion VMT to 57 billion VMT.
  • Minnesota is projected to have a 2.8 percent rate of economic growth in 2013, measured in real Gross State Product (GSP), which is factored for price changes.  This rate of growth is lower than the forecast 3.0 percent increase in national real GSP in 2013.
  • Every year, $237 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Minnesota and another $199 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Minnesota, mostly by trucks.  Sixty-four percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Minnesota are carried by trucks and another 21 percent are carried by parcel, U.S. Postal Service or courier services, which use trucks for part of their deliveries.
  • Minnesota’s population and economy will continue to grow in the future, bringing mounting challenges for the existing network of roads and bridges. The state will need to expand key roads, highways and bridges to increase mobility and ease traffic congestion, make needed road and bridge repairs, and improve roadway safety.

Minnesota faces a significant challenge in the need to rehabilitate pavements on numerous major roads and highways throughout the state.  Nearly a third of Minnesota’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Repairing the state’s deteriorated roadways and maintaining them in good condition will provide a smooth and efficient roadway system for the state’s residents and businesses.

  • Nearly a third of Minnesota’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, with 12 percent rated in poor condition and an additional 19 percent rated mediocre in 2010.  An additional 18 percent of the state’s major roads were rated in fair condition and 51 percent were rated in good condition in 2010.
  • The pavement data in this report is provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), based on data submitted annually by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) on the condition of major state and locally maintained roads and highways in the state (roads classified as arterials by the FHWA).
  • The functional life of Minnesota’s roads is greatly affected by the state’s ability to perform timely maintenance and upgrades to ensure that structures last as long as possible.  It is critical that roads are fixed before they require major repairs because reconstructing roads costs approximately four times more than resurfacing them.
  • The roadway sections in need of reconstruction include principle and non-principle arterials throughout the state, as well as sections of I-94 in the Twin Cities and West Central Minnesota, I-90 in Southern Minnesota, US 61 in Red Wing, MN 43 in Winona and MN 194 in Duluth. A list of regionally significant roads and highways that are in need of reconstruction or significant preservation can be found in Appendix A.

Minnesota faces a significant challenge in the need to reconstruct or repair numerous major bridges in the state, including several that cross the Mississippi River.  A total of 11 percent of bridges in Minnesota show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. 

  • Eight percent of Minnesota’s bridges were rated structurally deficient in 2011.  A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components.  Structurally deficient bridges may be posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
  • In 2011, three percent of Minnesota’s bridges were rated as functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards or are inadequate to accommodate current traffic levels, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
  • Bridges that are designated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete are safe for travel and are monitored and maintained on a regular basis by the agencies responsible for their upkeep.
  • Significant bridges in need of repair or replacement include the Third Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis; the Mendota Bridge (TH 55) in Bloomington; the I-35 Bridge in Duluth; and the multi-modal bridge in St. Paul carrying Robbins Street, the University of Minnesota Transitway and a railroad.  A list of deficient bridges of regional importance that present the most significant challenges to the state can be found in Appendix B.

Commuting and commerce in Minnesota are constrained by growing traffic congestion, particularly in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.  The state faces a significant challenge in the need to relieve congestion and improve personal and commercial mobility by making numerous transportation improvements, which will increase the capacity and efficiency of its roadways and transit systems. 

  • Minnesota’s urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, hampering commuting and commerce while reducing economic opportunities and quality of life in the state. Unless Minnesota’s transportation system is improved and enhanced, congestion will worsen dramatically in the coming years.
  • The improvements needed to relieve congestion and enhance mobility as determined by TRIP include the following: capacity enhancements, roadway reconstruction, managed lanes and improved traffic management on multiple sections of roadway in the Twin Cities Metro Area (including sections of I-35W, I-35E, I-94, I-394, I-694,  and MN 100), and enhancements that would promote economic development opportunities along crucial statewide connector routes such as US 169 in Itasca County, US 14 in Dodge and Steele Counties, and MN 371 in Crow Wing County.
    • A list of segments of roadway that are congested, contain chokepoints that hamper commuting or commerce, or lack an adequate facility to fully support economic development opportunities can be found in Appendix C.

Minnesota’s transit system is overburdened, leading to gaps in service and reliability along key transit routes. An adequate transit system helps to relieve traffic congestion and plays an important role in providing mobility to those without access to a private vehicle.

  • TRIP has compiled a list of transit facilities or routes (or the lack thereof) that hamper commuting or commerce because they are deteriorated or congested.  Minnesota’s  current transit needs include the following: expansion of the Metro Mobility Americans with Disabilities Act service in the Twin Cities metro area; expanding bus service in the Twin Cities metropolitan area; increasing funding for the Hiawatha Blue Line, Green Line and Red Line to allow for connections between major employment centers in the Twin Cities; the addition of Bus Rapid Transit corridors; and increased operating funds for numerous transit systems.
  • A list of existing or lacking transit facilities, or routes that hamper commuting or commerce because they are deteriorated or crowded can be found in Appendix D.

Although Minnesota has one of the lowest traffic fatality rates in the county, it still faces a challenge in the need to improve roadway safety, particularly on its rural roads and highways, which have a significantly higher rate of fatal traffic crashes than all other roads and highways in the state.  TRIP estimates that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all fatal and serious traffic crashes.  

  • Traffic crashes claimed the lives of 411 people in Minnesota in 2010. Between 2006 and 2010, 2,292 people were killed in traffic crashes in Minnesota, an average of 458 fatalities per year.
  • Minnesota’s traffic fatality rate in 2010 was 0.73 per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, below the national average of 1.11, the second lowest rate nationally among states behind only Massachusetts at 0.58.
  • The traffic fatality rate in 2010 on Minnesota’ non-Interstate rural roads was 1.29 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, which is triple the rate of 0.43 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on all other roads and highways in the state.
  • A disproportionate share of highway fatalities occurs on Minnesota’ rural, non-Interstate roads.  In 2010, 63 percent of traffic fatalities in Minnesota occurred on rural, non-Interstate routes, while only 36 percent of vehicle travel in the state occurred on these roads.
  • The roadway corridors most in need of safety improvements to reduce the occurrence of crashes and fatalities include the following: system-wide enhancements to the state’s Trunk Highway System, including the addition of rumble strips, the construction of cable median barriers, additional signage, and intersection improvements; the statewide implementation of conflict warning systems on rural intersections; and the removal of at-grade railroad crossings of major highways in Anoka, Cannon Falls, Crosby and Ramsey.
    • A list of the state’s most significant safety challenges can be found in Appendix E.
  • Several factors are associated with vehicle crashes that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway features.  It is estimated that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes.
  • Roadway features that impact safety include the number of lanes, lane widths, lighting, lane markings, rumble strips, shoulders, guard rails, other shielding devices, median barriers and intersection design.
  • Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion.  Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; improved lighting; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and traffic signals.

Transportation projects that improve the efficiency, condition or safety of a highway provide significant economic benefits by reducing transportation delays and costs associated with a deficient transportation system.  Some benefits of transportation improvements include the following.

  • Improved business competitiveness due to reduced production and distribution costs as a result of increased travel speeds and fewer mobility barriers.
  • Improvements in household welfare resulting from better access to higher-paying jobs, a wider selection of competitively priced consumer goods, additional housing and healthcare options, and improved mobility for residents without access to private vehicles.
  • Gains in local, regional and state economies due to improved regional economic competitiveness, which stimulates population and job growth.
  • Increased leisure/tourism and business travel resulting from the enhanced condition and reliability of a region’s transportation system.
  • A reduction in economic losses from vehicle crashes, traffic congestion and vehicle maintenance costs associated with driving on deficient roads.
  • The creation of both short-term and long-term jobs.
  • Transportation projects that expand roadway or bridge capacity produce significant economic benefits by reducing congestion and improving access, thus speeding the flow of people and goods while reducing fuel consumption.
  • Transportation projects that maintain and preserve existing transportation infrastructure also provide significant economic benefits by improving travel speeds, capacity, load-carry abilities and safety, and reducing operating costs for people and businesses.  Such projects also extend the service life of a road, bridge or transit vehicle or facility, which saves money by either postponing or eliminating the need for more expensive future repairs.
  • Site Selection magazine’s 2010 survey of corporate real estate executives found that transportation infrastructure was the third most important selection factor in site location decisions, behind only work force skills and state and local taxes.
  • A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs, including approximately 9,500 in the construction sector, approximately 4,300 jobs in industries supporting the construction sector, and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.
  • A 2009 report prepared for the American Public Transportation Association found that every $1 billion invested in public transit highway construction would support approximately 36,000 jobs, including approximately 17,500 in jobs related to constructing transit facilities or manufacturing vehicles and in operating transit systems, approximately 4,500 jobs in industries supporting either the construction of transit facilities or the manufacturing of transit vehicles and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-transit related sectors of the economy.
  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

Sources of data for this report include the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the American Public Transit Association (APTA), the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), and the U.S. Census Bureau.  All data used in the report is the latest available.