Here's something to keep in mind as the state legislature hammers out its transportation bill in the next two weeks: A study released yesterday found Minnesota has 830 bridges that are classified as "structurally deficient," meaning they are in "urgent need of repair or replacement."
Transportation for America's annual report on bridge safety has all sorts of alarming numbers to worry about.
There are 12,961 bridges in the state that carry vehicle traffic. More than half of those are at least 50 years old.
St. Louis County, which includes Duluth in northeast Minnesota, has by far the most structurally deficient bridges with 102. That's almost double the next closest county, Mower County (centered around Austin in southern Minnesota) with 52.
More than 1.7 million trips are taken every day across these crumbling bridges, and, as we saw in 2008 with the I-35 bridge collapse, bad things can and will happen when they don't get repaired.
So what is the state legislature doing about it?
The Republican-led House passed a $7 billion dollar bill that doesn't raise taxes. Instead, it redirects taxes collected on auto partsand leased and rental cars to come up with a big chunk of the funds.
The DFL-led Senate and Gov. Mark Dayton have a package worth about $11 billion that relies on raising the gas tax 16 cents per gallon to a total of 45 cents per gallon.
The gas tax -- a steady, long-term fix that both businesses and labor support -- will be one of the biggest political fights left as the Legislature enters its last two weeks.
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