Daily Glean: State bridge-building speed up: a too-rosy scenario?

The Strib’s Chris Havens and Jim Walsh report that the Lafayette Bridge — rated worse than 35W’s — will be replaced in 2010, a year ahead of schedule. It’s part of what the PiPress’s Bill Salisbury calls MnDOT’s “accelerated” $2.5 billion, 10-year, 11-bridge draft plan. A new Hastings bridge rises in 2010; Stillwater replaces the lift bridge in 2013. MPR says by 2018, 120 structurally suspect bridges will be “repaired, replaced or under construction.”

More MnDOT: Finance & Commerce’s Charley Shaw reports that the bridge plan’s financing plan has a “hitch” — it assumes no drop in federal funds or gas-tax proceeds. On Friday, the paper reported a possible 34 percent federal cut in 2009; gas-tax proceeds could fall as consumption drops. Shaw also notes that transportation department leaders say the agency is “shifting its focus” from highway expansion toward other modes such as “transit, freight, rail, ports and waterways.”

Congressman Tim Walz is in hock: AP writes that the 1st District congressman owes between $75,000 and $160,000 on three credit cards. Ouch. This might explain why Walz wasn’t enticed by pleas to run for U.S. Senate. His spokesperson notes Walz did not a draw a salary for much of 2006 when he was running for Congress. Will Republican opponents make personal finances an issue, especially when constituents may have this problem?

Al Franken released his first U.S. Senate adcriticizing the government for rebuilding Iraq, not America — and not a moment too soon. A new Survey USA poll for KSTP shows Franken down 12 to Norm Coleman, 52-40, losing by 8 to Norm if Jesse Ventura gets in. (Ventura says he doesn’t have to decide until mid-July, the PiPress’s Rachel Stassen-Berger notes.) Swapping Mike Ciresi for Franken only gains Democrats 2 points.

In the suddenly interesting world of grain prices, the Strib’s Chris Serres says Minnesota corn farmers will profit from recent floods. That’s because “monsoon-like” rains have gone further south, leaving high prices for our relatively dry guys. Corn is nearly $8 a bushel; seems like just days ago $7 was a big deal. Current flooding is worse than 1993, and one economist’s projection is for $15- to $16-a-bushel corn(!). Consumers, livestock farmers and ethanol producers won’t like that.

Nyah-nyah-nyah! The Rocky Mountain News says even though St. Paul has raised more for the GOP National Convention, Denver and the Democrats have more cash on hand. All of Denver’s $29 million is money in the bank, while some of St. Paul’s $31 million is in-kind services, the News notes. It’s just like a real campaign back-and-forth, though this one seems whipped up by the Denver paper.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann says we can have $2-a-gallon gas … in four years … if only we drill in places like Alaska’s ANWAR and offshore, the PiPress’s Dennis Lien reports. DFL opponent El Tinklenberg says any new supply wouldn’t show up for seven years and wouldn’t help much, KARE’s John Croman notes. MPR’s Tim Pugmire adds that the feds predict ANWAR would reduce $130-a-barrel-oil by between 44 cents and $1.41. Key question: Will a price-battered public buy what Bachmann’s selling?

KARE’s Allen Costantini profiles a New Prague engineering exec who “predicted the oil embargo and shortages of the 1970s” and now favors a nuke-heavy future. Joe Shuster opposes ANWAR drilling and his book “Fossil Fools” promotes this 2040 energy mix: 10 percent wind, 10 percent solar, 80 percent nuclear.

The PiPress’s Jennifer Bjorhus reports that one of the state’s bigger home builders has filed for bankruptcy. MW Johnson Construction, the state’s 11th-biggest builder, will still operate under Chapter 11. The 30-employee company owes unsecured creditors about $4 million. In 2007, it closed on 177 houses, the Strib’s Jim Buchta notes.

Related: Minnesota’s foreclosure rate ranks 25th nationally, according to Burl Gilyard at Finance & Commerce. The private firm RealtyTrac reports 2,204 Minnesota filings in May. A local nonprofit, HousingLink, thinks the numbers are higher; its 2007 total was a third bigger than RealtyTrac’s. HousingLink projects about 28,000 foreclosures statewide this year.

The Strib’s Liz Fedor says Sun Country Airlines lost “nearly a dime for every dollar it generated” in 2008’s winter months. She questions the airline’s survival chances, noting cold weather typically brings the airline its biggest profits. Sun Country lost $8 million last quarter, compared with $389,000 a year earlier. It’s lost $43 million in the last four quarters. Costs are rising faster than revenues, but owner Tom Petters has “deep pockets,” according to a company board member.

MPR’s Bob Collins hits the highlights from a new state drug trend report: heroin and Ecstasy use is up, as is prescription drug abuse. Cocaine treatment admissions are down, but marijuana ranks first among illegal narcotics as a reason for entering treatment. A greater percentage of high school seniors are using pot and LSD.

The Minnesota Women’s Press asks: Is the Twin Cities a great place to be a lesbian? Answer: yes, mostly. The story looks at many facets; one lawyer who says she feels more comfortable within the 494/694 ring praises Anoka County judges for their fairness in family-court matters. There are several lesbian-friendly congregations, a major pro-lesbian family organization is based here, and many employers are fair. Discrimination hasn’t been abolished, though, and the bar scene could be better.

The Strib’s Nick Coleman celebrates two Chaska teens who finished a 2,250-mile canoe trip to Hudson’s Bay. They were retracing a trip taken 78 years ago by Eric Severeid, and did it in half the time (49 days), despite paddling upriver in a spring flood. Congrats, boys!

Also in the Strib, Neal St. Anthony heralds 100 new private-sector jobs in North Minneapolis. That’s great news for an employment-starved area, but the kicker is that Minneapolitans had to fend off Gov. Pawlenty’s rural JOBZ incentive program so Impact Mailing would double its urban employment.

This struck me as remarkable: Last Saturday, June 14, Duluth recorded its first murder of 2008.

Nort spews: No baseball yesterday, but Twins versus Nationals today, which means the Young brothers — Minnesota’s Delmon and Washington’s Dmitri — square off.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 06/17/2008 - 09:20 am.

    Reporters should have asked both Rep. Bachmann and Mr. Shuster (the KARE-11 link) how building more nuclear power plants in any way alters the price or availablity of gasoline.

    Nuclear power is used to generate electricty, very little (less than 5%) of our nation’s electrical power is fueled by petroleum.

    A disappointing lack of scruitiny and followup in both instances. These are both important stories, and reporters need to be asking better questions.

    Tim Russert would have. RIP, Mr. Russert. You’ll be missed.

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