MnDOT disses ‘lower, cheaper’ St. Croix bridge plan

MORNING EDITION

The idea of a “lower, cheaper” St. Croix bridge was deep-sixed by MnDOT Wednesday. Kevin Giles in the Strib says: “[T]he MnDOT review said the alternative plan varies little from a proposal studied and rejected several years ago. The alternative plan would cost as much as the current proposal and would create ‘significant’ disruption of historic properties and natural resources on the Minnesota side of the river, the review said. Construction couldn’t start until 2019 because of permits, approvals, legalities and funding decisions necessary to move such a project forward, the review said. A spokesman for the alternative plan, Roger Tomten, said the MnDOT review lacked depth, included errors and was written without any consultation with his group.”

The state will continue providing money for funerals honoring vets. Elizabeth Dunbar at MPR says: “Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito on Wednesday announced the state will continue to fund groups that provide funeral honors for veterans. The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton had cut the program’s funding for the next two years because of the state’s budget crisis. But Shellito said the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to provide funds to veteran service organizations for funerals. … Since 2008, the state has given service organizations nearly $265,000 to provide military funeral honors. The money reimbursed honor guards that attended funerals for the state’s veterans, giving the groups up to $50 for each funeral for things like mileage and uniforms.”

Nancy Pelosi attended a forum on the famine in the Horn of Africa hosted by Congressman Keith Ellison. KARE-TV’s John Croman says: “Congressman Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat who organized the event, said he invited Pelosi in hopes of drawing more media attention to the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and relief efforts. ‘She’s doing it perhaps in the most important place in the United States to do it, which is the place where the highest concentration of Somali residents are’, Rep. Ellison said. Dr. Raj Shah, who heads the United States Agency for International Development, also came to Minnesota to take part in the forum. He said an estimated 12.4 million people in that region are suffering from malnutrition.”

Well, they are getting a little pricey … Brady Gervais of the PiPress says: “Police are investigating three cases involving the sale of Minnesota State Fair counterfeit tickets. On Monday, St. Paul police arrested Richard Joseph Hazeltine, 39, of St. Paul, in connection with counterfeit tickets, said Howie Padilla, a spokesman for the St. Paul police. Police also questioned a juvenile. Hazeltine is being held in the Ramsey County Jail in an unrelated case, Padilla said. Police were also looking into a report Tuesday of a sale of bad tickets, he said. In a separate incident Saturday, police arrested a man on suspicion of selling counterfeit State Fair tickets at a Northtown Mall parking lot in Blaine where express buses pick up and drop off fair-goers, said Brienna Schuette, a spokeswoman for the fair.”

Growing time is pretty much over in southeast Minnesota. Matt Peterson of the Austin Daily Herald writes: “Though another week of warm temperatures and limited rain helped corn mature in northern parts of Minnesota, dry conditions in this area have brought the growing season to an end. Most corn has filled, but rain can still help the bean pods mature for the next few weeks, area farmers said. Still, some farmers have lowered their projections of above-average yields to just average. ‘We’ve definitely been hurt with dry weather through July and August,’ said Jon Hillier, agronomist with Northern Country Co-Op in Rose Creek. He said the area has gone through the driest July and August of the past 55 years. ‘We are basically 25 to 50 percent of normal rain,’ he said.”

We have now arrived at a point where “natural child” is a subjective assessment. The AP reports: “An Iowa girl who was born two years after her father died is not eligible to receive his Social Security Benefits, a federal appeals court has ruled. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision this week reversed a district court ruling that granted benefits to the girl, who is now 8 years old. Her mother, Patti Beeler of West Branch, had filed for the benefits on behalf of her daughter in 2003 but was denied by the Social Security Administration because of a state law’s definition of ‘natural child’ and the inheritance rights of a child. Bruce Beeler died of leukemia in 2001, and Patti Beeler was later artificially inseminated with sperm the couple had decided to preserve. Patti Beeler sued to challenge the agency’s decision and won, but that was overturned by the St. Louis-based court, which ruled Monday that the girl did not satisfy requirements under Iowa’s inheritance laws to be eligible for her father’s benefits.”

Todd Nelson at Finance and Commerce has a story about a U of M project to reduce the cost of solar panel: “Solar energy experts anticipate that more efficient solar cell technology under development at the University of Minnesota will lure private investment to the state and help speed solar energy’s growth nationally. Researchers will use a recent $695,000 university grant to demonstrate that their approach to improving solar cell efficiency works, said project leader Stephen Campbell, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the U’s College of Science and Engineering in Minneapolis. … by decade’s end, the [Department of Energy] wants to make solar energy technologies, without subsidies, cost-competitive with energy from conventional sources such as coal and nuclear power. The DOE estimates that the cost of an installed solar system — which Campbell today puts at roughly $1.80 a watt — will need to fall to $1 a watt or less to reach cost parity with conventional energy rates.”

I’m sorry — this stinks. The AP reports that the 11-year-old kid who made the “miracle” hockey shot will not get the $50,000 prize: “A Minnesota boy who made an incredible hockey shot during a charity event won’t collect the $50,000 prize because his twin brother should have taken the shot. The company that insured the event, Odds On Promotions, said Wednesday it would instead donate $20,000 to youth hockey in Minnesota in the boys’ names. Eleven-year-old Nate Smith hit the puck through a tiny hole 89 feet away during a charity hockey game in Faribault on Aug. 11.” How many ways can you say “weasels”?

Healthy skepticism would seem to be in order. Joy Powell of the Strib says: “The mother he long thought was dead says she wants to be part of Sebastian Cross’ future. Abandoned by his father, now under arrest in California, the 11-year-old Lakeville boy remains in the care of an aunt. Court and child-protection workers will ultimately decide where he lives. Katik Porter, who hasn’t seen her son for nearly a decade, called Dakota County officials Wednesday to say she wanted to be part of those discussions. … In a 2001 interview with Twin Cities Public Television about families struggling to get off welfare, Porter, using the name Splitstoesser, said her own mother had left her to be raised by relatives, who depended on public assistance. She said she’d also turned to welfare to raise her five children, but had been working for more than two years.”

Finally, a correction. In Tuesday’s Afternoon Glean, I incorrectly identified GOP Rep. Steve “The Draz” Drazkowski as a “freshman.” He replaced former Speaker Steve Sviggum and is currently serving his third term. I guess it’s just that he brings, you know, so much freshman “zeal.”

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ross Williams on 09/01/2011 - 07:47 am.

    MnDOT is a problem. This bridge serves almost no one except a few land speculators in Wisconsin. The congestion could be eliminated by simply tolling the current bridge.

    But the problem extends beyond this one project. MnDOT is an old-fashioned engineering firm with huge political clout from its vendors in the construction industry and their employees in the building trades unions.

    MnDOT isn’t maintaining its existing facilities. But doing basic maintenance doesn’t require highly skilled engineers, employ expensive heavy equipment or need lots of specialized building trades employees. So while our existing roads very slowly go back to gravel like the Roman roads of old, MnDOT is being allowed to spend the gas tax money people are paying for maintenance on adding shiny, new facilities it can’t afford to maintain.

  2. Submitted by Pat McGee on 09/01/2011 - 10:06 am.

    “weasels”-betrayer, double-crosser, fink, rat, sneak, turncoat, whistle-blower circumlocute, deceive, ditch, duck, elude, equivocate,evade, fudge, get around, get out of, give the slip, hedge,parry, pussyfoot, shake, shake off, shift, shirk, short-circuit, sidestep, skip out on, skirt, slide, slip, swerve, tergiversate, tergiverse, trick, turn aside…

    Just a few ways the thesaurus says you can say weasel.

  3. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 09/01/2011 - 11:04 am.

    # 1: Ross: Your comment belongs on the Steve Dornfield piece on the gas tax.

  4. Submitted by Kevin Gutknecht on 09/02/2011 - 11:30 am.

    Regarding Mr. Williams comments:
    1. The Stillwater Lift Bridge carries about 18,000 cars a day. That is somewhat more than almost no one.
    2. Not sure what is meant by basic maintenance. Most of the work MnDOT does on the roadways, either with its own maintenance crews or by hiring contractors requires civil engineering expertise and heavy roadwork equipment to accomplish.
    3. The St. Croix River Crossing is a planned replacement for the 80-year old Stillwater Lift Bridge, which has been and is maintained by MnDOT bridge engineers and bridge maintenance workers.
    4. MnDOT has worked for years with a large group of stakeholders to determine whether another bridge needs to be built in the Stillwater area and what that bridge would look like. MnDOT did not decide that the St. Croix River Crossing was the best option. The stakeholder process did.
    5. MnDOT works with planning organizations, local governements and the state legislature to determine how to spend state and federal funding on road improvements.

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