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Business supports transportation funding solution

Businesses want “predictable and sustainable funding that allows for planning, expanding and repairing Minnesota’s transportation system.”

Getting raw materials to processing plants and goods to market are probably two of the most essential needs for Minnesota businesses.
Courtesy of MnDOT

Over the last several months, transportation has clearly been a hot topic in state government. Last week, we were reminded that the issue is important to Minnesota businesses across the state.

Charlie Zelle

Elected officials in the Minnesota House and Senate received a clear and direct letter from business leaders that supports a long-term and sustainable transportation funding package “providing predictable and sustainable funding that allows for planning, expanding and repairing Minnesota’s transportation system.”

The letter was signed by the leadership of seven business associations from Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, New Ulm, Mankato and Marshall. It said that transportation investment is key to Minnesota’s competitiveness. As a former Chamber of Commerce board chairman, I completely understand the need for regional chambers to take an active role in representing their members in the transportation funding debate. These chambers alone represent more than 6,000 businesses across the state that rely on our transportation system and see the value of investing in one of the state’s key capital assets.

Key expansions sought

And the authors indicated that just maintaining the system is not the answer. “To be clear — maintaining our current system is not enough. We must make strategic investments in projects that will help regional economies grow throughout the state, including key expansions of busy highways and transit networks in regional hubs.”

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Over the last couple of years, I have traveled across the state, talking with citizens and businesses about transportation and the state’s funding issue. And, I have listened to businesses large and small tell about what they need in order to succeed. And getting raw materials to processing plants and goods to market are probably two of the most essential needs.

A good, reliable transportation system is also vital to attracting and keeping a quality work force. Minnesota needs people to live here and work in our economy. If they have trouble getting around, spend way too much time in congestion and don’t find a comprehensive network of multimodal options, they may leave. And all the experience and training businesses have invested in those employees will also leave.

I have had a long career in business. I understand very well the need to make capital investments on a timely basis. If a business delays that investment, it often pays an expensive price. From a business perspective, it makes sense to invest in transportation now. We will get a better return on our investments than if we wait.

Congestion has increased

It is also important to note that businesses will suffer if the transportation system deteriorates and congestion increases. We recently released our annual congestion report which indicates that congestion in the metro area has increased. Minnesota will be a less competitive and profitable place for businesses if we don’t invest in our transportation system.

It is gratifying to witness the business community supporting a long term, predictable and sustainable approach to transportation funding.  In the past, business associations have taken a leadership role in supporting new, sustainable revenue for transportation and acted together as a key force in securing its passage. During the last week of the Legislative Session, I encourage all business associations to advocate on behalf of the business community it represents and support a comprehensive transportation plan that fully addresses our system needs.      

There is strong support across Minnesota for funding a transportation solution. As the state Legislature winds to a close, it is important for lawmakers to ensure they are heeding the wishes of their constituents, and doing what is right and best for Minnesota, its citizens and its economy. 

Charlie Zelle is the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.


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