Archive Hosted by the AFL-CIO

Tuesday Talk: What are your transportation priorities?

July 30, 2013 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Minnesota's economic future depends on a strong multi-modal transportation system, with well-maintained highways, a comprehensive transit system that serves the entire state, safe bicycle and pedestrian paths and robust water, air and freight rail infrastructure. 

Despite the need, funds are limited. The 20-year State Highway Investment Plan estimates a $12 billion short fall. Federal funding for bike and pedestrian trails has been scaled back. And there's limited political will to invest in game-changing transit infrastructure.

This morning, between 8 and 9:30, MnDOT's Pat Weidemann will join Tuesday Talk to answer your questions about the soon-to-be finalized 20-year State Highway Investment Plan, which focuses on better managing existing assets and accommodating a multi-modal transportation system.

What are your transportation priorities?

If you missed the Q&A portion, take a minute to share your priorities. 


Post your comments or questions in the box below, scroll down to see the ongoing conversation, and use "refresh" to see new comments.

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • John G. says:

    July 30, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Mass transit, bike and pedestrian ways, mass transit; no new roads - repair/maintenance only; have I said mass transit. - beyond rush hour and core city service.

  • Craig David says:

    July 30, 2013 at 7:54 am

    •Light Rail lines are important for the future of the cities.
    Keep building them.
    • Explore rail as links between populated areas. (cities and Rochester).
    • Keep up with road and bridge work, improving highways, intersections, etc.

    • Pat Weidemann says:

      July 30, 2013 at 8:07 am

      MnSHIP spends a large portion of the resources on maintaining the condition of the State’s road and bridges.  They are critical to the economic development and quality of life of the State.

    • cathy says:

      July 30, 2013 at 9:29 am

      We just returned from Washington DC. Their Metro rail system is wonderful and easy. I don’t understand why the Twin Cities didn’t start their rail system many years ago. Now the costs are outrageous. Seems they would rather add another lane to 35-W every 10 years. How costly is that?

  • Rachel says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:02 am

    (via Twitter)

    Mandy Tempel says: Accessibility for people with disabilities.

  • Pat Weidemann says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Welcome.  I am Patrick Weidemann, Director of the Statewide Highway Planning Unit for MnDOT.  I will be happy to take your questions about MnDOT’s draft Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP) for short.

  • Jim Weygand says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:09 am

    It is obvious the current system for financing transportation Investment and maintenance is adequate, are future improvements being addressed for the future?

    • Pat Weidemann says:

      July 30, 2013 at 8:15 am

      MnSHIP identifies a total highway investment need for it twenty year horizon at $30 billion dollars.  MnDOT’s anticipated revenue for that same period is only $18 billion, leaving a gap of $12 billion.  Contributing to the gap amount is a loss in buying.  With construction costs rising relatively steadily, MnDOT anticipates a loss of 50% of its buying power by the year 2033. 

      While some improvements are being addressed, particularly in years 1-10 of this plan.  There are many unfunded improvement needs over all twenty years.

  • Curz says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Mass transit in the form of trains DONE RIGHT, no more of this over the same surface as existing traffic is on, which merely displaces rather than expanding capacity.. go up or go down, and don’t trash our trails with trains that avoid the densest part of the city like the SW Corridor, basically a private coach for the richies out in the burbs who don’t want to have us city people on THEIR trains. Not to mention the development driven agenda behind all that, and the crony politicians who make it possible. MN transportation never takes in the long term best interests.. always resorts to crap people realize was flawed ten years later and which gets fixed (sort of) fifty years later (62 crosstown/ 35W) at major extra expense greater by legions than the supposedly prudent savings of doing it wrong in the first place. And no more of those stupid curb corner bumpouts (on Lyndale and Lake etc.) which: mess up snow plows, remove parking places small biz depends on, gives peds a false sense of security standing basically out in the intersection on a penninsula which texters and drunkos will pop over and hurt people, which squeeze bikers against cars, which cause some buses to stop all traffic in one direction because some bone head put the busstop on the damn bumpout, which causes congestion because without them people could have made right turns on red and alleviated the backup, and on and on.. they do nothing concrete (pun intended) except clog up the infrastructure, which again will inevitably be torn up and redone in X number of years when the booksmart dipshits who plan transportation in this area see the light of street smarts.

    • Pat Weidemann says:

      July 30, 2013 at 8:28 am

      MnDOT takes a variety of issues into consideration when planning improvements.  We are trying hard to balance a variety of needs by different users of the highway.  As you noted, sometimes users groups needs bump against each other.  MnSHIP has set an investment level direction for the agency on all the needs, but individual elements for each project is a part of project development.  I would encourage you to contact MnDOT’s Metro District office if you have some concerns about particular design elements (like bulb outs) on a specific corridor.

  • Rachel says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Pat, Many of our readers are active cyclists. What can you tell us about MnSHIP’s plans for expanding bike infrastructure?

    • Pat Weidemann says:

      July 30, 2013 at 8:32 am

      MnDOT is trying to maintain a diversified investment approach in MnSHIP as long as it is fiscally possible.  In years 1-10 of MnSHIP, we have planned for $110 M in bicycle related investments (bridges, bike lanes, and wide/paved shoulders).  MnDOT anticipates that it will still try and spend about $100 M in years 11-20, although it will become much more difficult as the physical condition of the pavements and bridges continues to decline.

  • Riordan Frost says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:27 am

    What are MNDOT’s plans in light of the funding shortfall? $12 billion is substantial, and while there have been hopes of an Infrastructure Bank or a renewed sense of transportation funding urgency on the federal scale, the gridlock and slow pace doesn’t signal any progress anytime soon. Are there non-federal sources that MNDOT will seek out? What gets prioritized if the funding doesn’t materialize?

    • Pat Weidemann says:

      July 30, 2013 at 8:36 am

      MnSHIP is fiscally constrained, so it lays out what will get prioritized with the funds we have.  In the first ten years, MnDOT is able to address a fairly wide range of diversified needs, although only limited amounts of capacity expansion is doable.  However, in years 11-20 MnDOT focuses almost all of its resources on pavement and bridge conditions.  As for funding options, Commissioner Zelle is working with business leaders, policy makers, and others to lay out the funding issue and develop a pathway to addressing it.  Look for more on that in the near future.

  • Doug says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:32 am

    invest in mass transit and more bike path
    Plus if i could i would build communities around were we could ride or bike to get to the grocery store and what ever else you need to survive. Kind like the old west before the cars should up

  • Lisa says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:44 am

    mass transit, safe bike paths, inspect and repair roads and bridges

  • Kyle says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:46 am

    What sort of technological advancements does the current 20 year plan include for transportation infrastructure?

    Are there any concept needs for building infrastructure in multiple tiered roads / subway / elevated trains for our transportation in MN? It seems that all of our advancements only build outwards.

    • Pat Weidemann says:

      July 30, 2013 at 8:50 am

      MnSHIP itself does not identify any specific technological advancement.  However, MnDOT is assuming some financial gains can be had through technology improvements that can help with the widening gap in need.  As MnSHIP is the highway investment plan, much of the advancement helping MnSHIP will probably come from new materials and better ways to construct (cold in-place recycling is one example, for those of you familiar with this technique).

  • Anne White says:

    July 30, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Walkability is one of the most important aspects of a complete, robust transportation system, yet it is sorely neglected. Complete, accessible sidewalks, safe street crossings, shade trees and adequate snow removal (especially at street corners and bus stops) are cited by pedestrians as the most important elements in encouraging more people to walk the first and last mile—or half mile—of their trip.

    In contrast to streets, expenses for new sidewalks and sidewalk repairs and maintenance are either completely or partially assessed to the adjacent property owner. If we want to implement Complete Streets policies, shouldn’t the governmental agency—MnDOT, county, city—pay for these expenses as they do for streets?

    The City of Chicago puts pedestrians first in the hierarchy of transportation modes to be considered in planning a complete street. Transit is 2nd, bicycles 3rd, and motor vehicles 4th. Given that a safe, friendly pedestrian realm is seen as more and more important for a healthy, livable, prosperous community, is this something the Twin Cities and Minnesota should consider adopting?

    • Pat Weidemann says:

      July 30, 2013 at 9:00 am

      MnDOT is committed to implementing a complete streets approach here in Minnesota.  Sidewalk repair and maintenance is something we are working on with our local government partners.  Within MnSHIP, we have assumed about 2% of the funding both years 1-10 and 11-20 will be used to address accessible pedestrian infrastructure (which includes curb cuts, sidewalks, and street crossings).  It can be very expensive to put in new sidewalk where gaps exist, so that is one of the fiscal limitations we are working with at MnDOT.

  • Pat Weidemann says:

    July 30, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I might draw your attention to a significant risk MnDOT is facing as it developed MnSHIP.  Basically, MnDOT is putting almost all of its available resources into pavement and bridge conditions in years 11-20.  While it is prudent to keep the existing system in a state of good repair, there is serious risk if MnDOT does not put that amount of funds into system condition.  In the 11-20 timeframe, MnDOT’s overall system condition comes very close to tripping what is referred to as GASB 34 thresholds.  Back in 2000, MnDOT established a condition level it would minimally maintain its roadway infrastructure at for bonding companies looking to buy State of Minnesota backed bonds.  You may not know it, but MnDOT owns approximately 80% of the State’s assets.  If MnDOT falls below that established minimum condition level, it may effect the State’s bond rating.  Which means all bonding, not just MnDOT’s, may be negatively impacted.

  • Carolyn Chalmers says:

    July 30, 2013 at 9:13 am

    I would like to see rigorous evaluation and winowing of the bus system.  They run nearly emply, always, in our Mpls Longfellow neighborhood.  At the same time, they are big emitters of greenhouse gases.  Couldn’t we institute a kind of dolmush system (as in Turkey where mini-vans or cabs ply the routes frequently (short waits) and carry just 4-6 people) for those bus routes which are underused.

    Tongue in cheek, I would like to pay people to ride public transportation.  But if politically impossible, I would like to see deeper discounts for riding public transportation, especially for people who commit to ride frequently.  What if we made bus travel free?  Would we at least fill the buses so that the resources were being well used?  If not, we would certainly learn something about the bus system in the 21st century.

    Carolyn C

    • Pat Weidemann says:

      July 30, 2013 at 9:18 am

      I would refer your specific issues to transit system design to the Metropolitan Council, as they are charged with transit in the Twin Cities.  Building and maintaining a diversified transportation system that meets the needs of the residents and businesses of the State is Minnesota’s vision for transportation.  MnDOT is committed to working with all users of the system to try and meet that vision.

  • Pat Weidemann says:

    July 30, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I would like to close by saying that MnSHIP is still a draft plan.  MnDOT is taking public comments until the end of business (4:30) today.  Please feel free to enter the MnSHIP website and leave us any comments you may have.

    On behalf of MnDOT, I want to thank you for your interest in transportation.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any follow-up questions or concerns.  I can be reached at (651) 366-4835 or you may contact the Project Manager for MnSHIP, Ryan Wilson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Again, it has been my pleasure to talk with you today.  Thank you and be safe in your travels.

    Patrick Weidemann
    Director of Statewide Planning Unit

  • Allan Hancock says:

    July 30, 2013 at 9:31 am

    I know I am late in the entry, just got on at the end.  Emphasis on high speed rail between Mpls and Chicago.

  • Mike Downing says:

    July 30, 2013 at 9:34 am

    We moved to MN in 1971 and found a great transportation system. Fast forward 42 years and we have a lousy transportation system yet the twin cities has doubled in population. Our transportation system simply did not expand as twin cities population grew.

    Our transportation bottlenecks need to be addressed as our first priority (I35W at I94, Hiway 36 entering I35W, etc.)and then we simply need to add road capacity in the following areas:
    1) Crosstown Hiway 62
    2) Hiway 36
    3) I35E from I694 to St Paul
    4) I35W from I94 to I694

    BTW, LRT projects are redevelopment projects and not transportation system. So LRT should be part of the Social Services budget and not the Transportation budget.

  • Claire O'Connor says:

    July 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

    LOW COST, PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION!!!!!!!!!  Take funding away from highways and put it toward light rail and similar efficient public transport.

  • Lee Steinbrecher says:

    July 30, 2013 at 10:06 am

    From an out state person who travels into the metro area on a regular basis, it appears that the highway travel continues to get bogged down al all hours of the day.  It is frustrating that the State and Federal Governments are spending so much money on the rail systems when the highway systems have gotten so backed up.  The rail system is not efficient nor flexible in moving people to the place they need to go unless you are going to the downtown of either city. In my opinion more $ should be spent on the efficiencies of Highway Transportation than rail systems. Maybe that system is a bus system for mass transportation or added lanes to our major freeways. All of these options would be better than the rail systems that are to little to late.

  • Herbert Allan Davis says:

    July 30, 2013 at 10:17 am

    If it doesn’t include statewide rail service then it isn’t really a plan….just a partial measure to cope with unwillingness to face the reality that we can’t provide reliable efficient transportation to the masses.

    Expanding urban bike trails costs so little it is silly to cut back.

  • Daryl says:

    July 30, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    We need bridges that everyone can drive on, not just people with SUV’s.  The expansion joints are way wider than they would need to be, and they should also be at an angle.  If we had bridges like the ones prior to 1992, people would drive smaller cars.  My car mechanic just avoids the bridges, which is getting increasing harder to do.

  • David says:

    July 30, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    We need rail and subways; however, light rail is too slow to be practical.

  • Margaret Beegle says:

    July 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    My transportation priorities include:
    safety, non-polluting vehicles, transportation upon demand, little land use, renewable energy input rather than fossil fuels, low cost of operation—in other words, Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). Check out PRT International, Taxi 2000, and PRT Minnesota as examples.

  • Amber Collett says:

    July 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Continued and expanded support for Light Rail and Bus Rapid Transit lines, expand innovative and proven bicycling and walking infrastructure, integrated driver/bicycles education efforts around new infrastructure projects.

  • Edith E. says:

    July 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I’d like transit for older folks who no longer want to drive or who are no longer able to drive.  Also train transit from Rochester to various places.

  • Mae B. Haynes says:

    July 31, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I would give just about anything to have light rail that extended to Wayzata, at least, or if that’s simply not possible, at least an adequate bus service.  As it stands now, I’d have to walk about two miles to get to the closest bus stop!!  This is not practical for me, since I am disabled.  I never get to go down town because I won’t drive in that traffic, so I’m inconveniently confined to about a tiny four mile area.  There is almost no transportation for people from Mound, or Plymouth, Wayzata or Minnetonka that would get us downtown.  I would LOVE to have bus or even better, light rail so I could go to a show, or a concert, hear the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, see a play at the Guthrie ... but I can’t drive at night, along with many, many other seniors, so we all lose.  This is worth the state issuing bonds for extending transportation options.  It’s ridiculous that in this city we have none.