20 Years Behind in Transportation Spending

In two decades, Britney Spears has grown from a Mouseketeer to a pop diva and then slumped back into insanity. During that same 20 years, Minnesota's roads have fallen into disrepair, lengthening commutes and choking out economic opportunity, which in a small way is its own kind of madness.

According to a new study from economic think tank Growth & Justice, to keep pace the state would have had to invest $13.89 billion more from 1986-2006.

That's a lot of money, but big numbers often lack context. What's truly troubling is the trend line -- overall highway spending by state government here, the report notes, "lags behind the trend for overall spending by all states combined."

The obvious rejoinder to this is: recession, recession, recession. This is an argument that's compelling at first, but transportation investment pays for itself over time. You don't balance your books by breaking the back of your infrastructure.

This isn't to say that just throwing more money at the problem is the fixer. Even if that were realistic at this point (it's not), the shortfall requires other creative solutions. Among them, according to the report: region-wide transit (go light rail!), traffic management efforts and land use planning.

The findings come from G&J's study “Twenty Years Behind: Highway Spending & Revenues by Minnesota’s State Government, 1986-2006." A PDF file of the entire report is available here.

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