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Keep Minnesota moving by investing in our transportation

Jennifer Munt
MinnPost file photo by Briana Bierschbach
Jennifer Munt speaks at a Move Minnesota news conference with road and transit workers.

Minnesota’s roads are falling apart and our transit systems are falling behind. Now it’s time for state lawmakers to greenlight new revenue for better transportation.

Transportation means opportunity for all, no matter who you are or where you live. People need safer roads and better transit to get to work and school. Employers need world-class buses and trains to attract the best employees. Our elders need a ride to live independently. Our families need better bicycle and pedestrian routes that connect them to their schools, jobs and recreation. Our farmers need sturdy bridges to get their produce to market. Our businesses require highways to quickly move their goods.

Everyone has a stake in transportation. Together, we must move past the divisive debates that pit rural against urban and roads against rail. We’re all in this together as One Minnesota.

With delay, the cost increases

Minnesota has only 60 percent of what it needs for roads, bridges and transit. Each year we delay our urgent transportation needs, the cost to taxpayers increases.

Jennifer Munt
Jennifer Munt
From Mankato to Minneapolis to Moorhead, Minnesotans are demanding action. They expect the Legislature to invest in transportation to keep their communities safe and their economies thriving. As Gov. Tim Walz explains, “This isn’t a choice between a gas tax and no gas tax. It’s about living in a state with safe, reliable transportation or one with crumbling roads and bridges that risk our safety and keep away businesses.”

Walz campaigned successfully on raising the gas tax to fix roads and bridges. The increase – which would occur in 5-cent increments in April and October of 2020 and 2021 – would cost the average driver between $185 and $298 per year. For comparison, the current condition of the state’s roads cost the average Minnesotan more than $1,000 per year in car repairs, gas costs and lost time while stuck in congestion.

A separate Walz proposal to enrich the Working Family Tax Credit would ease the burden of a higher gas tax on lower-income people. The infusion of gas tax revenue would also ease property taxes, with 40 percent of proceeds going to cities and counties, which are forced to pay a larger share of road fixes.

Strong support for transit statewide

A statewide poll by the Minneapolis Chamber found strong support for transit. Almost six in 10 Minnesota voters are willing to pay higher taxes or user fees to support more spending on transit.

Walz listened to public opinion and proposed a bold investment in buses. Over the next 10 years, his transit package would allow Metro Transit to build out 10 bus rapid transit lines that expand access to 500,000 jobs; invest in regional bus service to grow ridership by 40 percent (this includes investments for suburban transit providers); accelerate Metro Transit’s progress toward clean energy by adding 220 electric buses; and improve the transit customer experience through safety, shelters and technology.

Walz said it best: “There’s no reason Minnesotans can’t have nice things.” We deserve a Minnesota where the air is clean, families are healthy, and people are connected.

Over the next 10 years, the governor’s package would raise $1.5 billion for nice buses. The proposal would add a 1/8-cent sales tax in the seven-county metro area to raise $770 million for regional bus service. It would increase the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax from 6.5 percent to 6.875 percent to generate $205 million. It also includes $230 million in state bonding to add a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line each year for 10 years. BRT offers service every 10 minutes with enhanced stations and signal priority for a quick and comfortable ride.

The proposal also creates a separate funding stream for Metro Mobility that would provide $240 million over 10 years to operate vital paratransit service for persons with disabilities.

The package is complemented by continued financial support from county transit sales tax collections for light rail and modern streetcars.

316,000 transit trips on weekdays

Every weekday, people in the Twin Cities region take 316,000 transit trips. Our growing region will add 700,000 residents in the next 20 years. That’s like moving the entire state of North Dakota to the Twin Cities! To keep up with growth, we need more and better transit service.

Walz’s transportation package is comprehensive for transit, roads and bridges. It fairly balances the needs of Greater Minnesota and the metro. It’s a long-term solution with funding dedicated to transportation. It wisely ends transportation’s drain on the general fund when those dollars are desperately needed for education and health care.

Please urge your state legislators to support the governor’s transportation budget. It’s HF 2403, sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, and SF 2360 sponsored by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.

Our cherished quality of life and Minnesota’s economic vitality depend on safe roads and bridges, and easy access to public transit in communities where people can bike and walk.

Jennifer Munt served on the Metropolitan Council for 8 years during the Dayton administration.


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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/12/2019 - 09:19 am.

    I wish you socialist would stop trying to take all my money! Don’t you realize that if you just cut taxes all of this stuff gets done by magic? You liberals and your cockamamie ideas.

  2. Submitted by cory johnson on 04/12/2019 - 01:27 pm.

    The premise is false. Stop pretending our current very high taxes are being spent in a responsible fashion. 10’s if not hundreds of millions wasted in child welfare alone. Our administrative state is so huge no one can account for what is already collected. But one must never question a tax increase. Against the increasing income taxes? Why of course because you hate poor people and children. Against a gas tax? You’re against roads!

  3. Submitted by Alan Straka on 04/12/2019 - 04:50 pm.

    “Walz campaigned successfully on raising the gas tax to fix roads and bridges.”
    Instead of using the money which should go to fixing roads and bridges, he wants to spend that money on metro transit projects. This is just bait and switch.

  4. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 04/12/2019 - 06:59 pm.

    Seems like the Legislature tried to spend a lot of money on transportation during last year’s bonding package but it was vetoed by Governor Dayton who presided over 8 years of the crumbling roads and bridges, after the Pawlenty years of crumbling roads and bridges.

  5. Submitted by Richard Adair on 04/12/2019 - 09:45 pm.

    I agree entirely with Jennifer Mundt. Transit means people can get to work quickly and participate in a growing economy, regardless of where they live or whether they own a car. Transit is not socialism; it’s making sure everyone had a shot at success.

    It’s also a major way to fight global warming— the SWLRT line alone will mean 11 million trips per year without carbon coming out of automobile tailpipes.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/13/2019 - 09:07 am.

    It’s kind of entertaining when someone like Munt make a series of uncontroversial and common sense observations… and we see all these facile comments complaining about taxes.

    It’s particularly curious when the same people who whine and complain about “welfare” spending the “cities” turn around and demand more welfare spending for rural areas… while claiming that welfare spending is a waste of money.

    By the way, Republicans did NOT try to spend more money on transportation. On the contrary they’ve been setting limits on spending that have kept our infrastructure in a state of decay for over a decade. The primary focus of the legislative stunt that Dayton vetoed had nothing to do with increasing spending for transportation.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 04/13/2019 - 03:53 pm.

      The 2018 bonding bill passed by the legislature contained $542 million dollars for transportation.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/14/2019 - 09:18 am.

        “The 2018 bonding bill passed by the legislature contained $542 million dollars for transportation.”

        Sounds like a lot of money until you find out we needed almost twice that amount because we’ve been chronically under funding for two decades. Obviously had that funding been sufficient we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

        These people that simply point to a dollar amount of some kind without considering the actual cost of anything are embodiment of fiscal irresponsibility.

  7. Submitted by Carol Flynn on 04/13/2019 - 01:17 pm.

    As always, good writing Jennifer.

    But some folks still think the gas tax is used for transit and have no idea how much their property taxes are used for roads.

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