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 Response Page - Civic Caucus Discussion  on Transportation Issues   

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were part of a
Civic Caucus Discussion of recommendations regarding transportation,

 A.   People hold varying views about how serious transportation problems are in Minnesota. On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, please indicate your feelings on these contrasting views:

            1. _1.9 average____ Problems have been largely addressed by recent action authorizing new revenue for highways, rail and buses and increasing the role of counties in planning transitways.

            2. _8.6 average____ Serious problems remain.  The state's transportation leadership process is intolerably fractionated with no enforceable strategic plan.

B.  Several options have been advanced to produce enforceable, comprehensive,  strategic transportation plans for the state.   On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, please indicate your feelings on these options:

            1. _4.5 average___  Assign the job to the Governor.

            2. _4.7 average___  Assign the job to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

            3. _4.0 average____ Assign the job to the Metropolitan Council for an enlarged  Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and to MnDOT for the rest of the state.         

            4. _4.9 average___  Assign the job to a new elected or appointed state transportation commission.

            5. _5.7 average____ Enact a constitutional amendment to return to the state general revenue found those highway and transit funds now guaranteed to various levels of government and agencies.

            _____ 6.  Other.  Please specify:  ____________________________________

John Rollwagen

Part A:  (0) (10)

Part B: (10) (0) (0) (0) (10)

This is a terrific initiative, and I hope the Caucus can have some real impact when the final report comes out.

My responses to your survey are shown below, but I want to emphasize a more general comment as well.  Specifically, I believe the Governor is really the only official in a position to take complete charge of this process from beginning to end; and he or she must be required to do so in a responsible and comprehensive fashion.  The construction money comes from the Feds, and they need to hear a clear message from the State as a whole.  We must have a comprehensive plan.  The operating funds come from various local and statewide sources, and someone (the Governor again) must anticipate those needs and provide for a balanced funding approach.

So, I would suggest a two step approach — essentially a combination of options #1 and #5.  I would push to get #1 implemented as soon as possible.  I would also require true transparency in the process to make sure the Governor actually fulfills the obligation.  Then, after two or three years, when the process is firmly in place, I would go for #5 and give the Governor and Legislature the power and responsibility to manage the system directly.

This may be a too idealistic approach, but the system we have now is ludicrous and truly failing the State.

Bill Hamm

Part A:  (1) (10)

Part B:  (3) (5) (1) (8) (0)

Under Part A

Question 1. 1 While many expected that last year's transportation bill was going to magically fix everything it did nothing to address anything but funding and with the economic downturn it turns out that it even failed to accomplish that.

Question 2. 10 It goes much deeper than the fractional issues described hear in. The  connections existing between MNDOT and the Federal DOT will continue to undermine and trump state and county input into transportation funding.

Under Part B

Question 1. 3 I dislike the idea of making transportation a political football and while the Governor's office would be better than the legislature, neither would serve the people of Minnesota well.

Question 2. 5 Ideally this should be the best solution if MNDOT were not like a suckling pig on the federal teat, it's an issue of who and how they are accountable to.

Question 3. 1 Splitting the planning process as described hear will inevitably shortchange rural Minnesota.

Question 4. 8 for newly elected body, 0 for appointed body. This answer is qualified by either how this proposed body is elected or appointed.

Question 5. 0 Absolutely not under any circumstances.

Question 6. 8 Put MNDOT under the control of a regional board elected by county boards from each of those regional areas. These autonomous regions should be created to preserve rural integrity not coupled with metro areas to maintain metro domination of the process.

David Broden

Part A:  (3) (9)

Part B:  (10) (5) (2) (5) (7)

The summary recommendations are coming together well. There will be a few adjustments as we move ahead but the focus and key recommendations are setting a well supported approach. 

Part A

Question 1:  The actions have addressed how to raise funds but not how a plan should be prepared so we continue to have funds which seem in many cases to be spent in a rather disjointed way. It seems basically flawed that we worry about funding without first saying something about what and how decisions are made. 

Question 2:  As we have discussed this issue the lack of leadership comes up in almost every angle we can think of. The only reason I did not call this a 10 is that some people have expressed that leadership is emerging etc. Based on what I have heard the fractions seem to be winning the battle and the strategic plan although moving ahead may be just one more study with no authority or accountability. We need a responsibility focus which ensure accountability. 

Part B

Question 1:  Assigning the function here is the only place--now many will say he can't do this with the full scope of the governor job--the issue is how he organizes, delegates but maintains the responsibility and accountability. By placing the responsibility with the governor the plan will have attention to link the plan to state visions for jobs etc. 

Question 2:  This is an administrative management function and organization. The plan must be assigned to a point of leadership not management. Once the plan is defined it must be MnDOT's job to make it happen. Too often we mix leadership positions with management.  Leadership needs to set the stage for management and execution.

Question 3:  This approach will only increase the lack of cooperation between metro and the rural parts of Mn--we need a single agency with overall Minnesota to lead. If in the process after the strategic plan is established it can best be managed by dividing a suggested that may be possibility.        

Question 4:  This could be part of the planning function--this group would prepare the plan--report to the governor --independent of MnDOT--commission would act as an independent agent to build and keep current a strategic plan. The plan would be accountable to the governor. Commission would track and prioritize--governor would lead.

Question 5:  This should be the trust objective but must be done in a way that maintains an objective view across all of Mn and across all types of transportation. State funds must be used as State funds and not as a fund for the one who cries the loudest. 

Norman Carpenter

Good stuff on transportation issues, but any top level planning, which is necessary, must do something about local veto of routes and design (and even the "modal split"). We have to prevent recurrence of such bad designs as the Crosstown Commons, the non-standard Interstate 35E south of St. Paul, and the swinging door in Nisswa (one council says yes to SH371 through town, the next says no, there must be a by-pass, then the council changes again -- and there is another study). NIMBY is a serious problem...exacerbated by legislators voting their districts. I wrestled with this issue as counsel for MNDOT...many years ago!

Bright Dornblaser

Part A:  (0) (10)

Part B:  (2) (2) (0) (10) (10)

Well thought out and presented package.  Rating on No 5, part B, depends on enactment of No. 4.

Robert J. Brown

Part A:  (0) (10)
Part B:  (10) (8) (7) (5) (10)

Please remember to keep transportation planning connected to the more comprehensive goals of planning for economic development, education, housing, recreation, etc. In other words, re-create a strong state planning agency.

Clarence Shallbetter

Part A:  (4) (9)

Part B:  (8) (4) (4) (2) (8)

I realize we want to focus on recommendations now. However, I think the list of inadequacies is most critical to persuade people that the system needs to be changed. It's not that we lack a nice strategic plan but that we're wasting severely limited resources in some types of projects at a time when we can't begin to undertake even half of the projects needed to maintain the existing system let alone reduce existing congestion or selectively encourage targeted economic development.

Conrad deFiebre

Part A:  (2) (8)
Part B:  (0) (0) (0) (10) (0)

We've seen the sorry results of lack of leadership by several governors on transportation. I doubt giving more power to the governor (or his underlings at MnDOT and Met Council) will solve the problems. A state transportation board has a chance to equitably represent all of Minnesota's regions and interest groups as well as the state's overall economic prospects, which is the point of transportation investment, after all.

Joe Mansky

Part A:  (0) (10)

Bob White

Part A:  (0) (9)
Part B:  (1) (6) (4) (6) (8)

Aim high.  If MNDOT gets full authority, fine.  If not, establish a new commission -- an unfortunate alternative because it adds another layer of government.  On another least-bad choice, this one on constitutional amendments.  Governing by amendment is a lousy method; but an amendment seems to be the only way to get rid of constitutionally mandated transportation funds.

Bert Press

Part A:  (6) (0)
Part B:  (0 (5) (0) (6) (0)

Prof. Ed Anderson's PRT should have been considered years ago.

Lyall Schwarzkopf

Part A:  (3) (9)

Part B: (7) (8) (5) (2) (5)

Tom Swain

Part A:  (2) (8)

Part B:  (_) (_) (_)(10) (_)

Gene Franchett

Part A:  (5) (10)
Part B:  (10) (4) (9) (3) (9)

Robert McFarlin

Part A:  (0) (10)

There already exists an extensive transportation system planning process for the state and the Twin Cities region.  Mn/DOT has recently issued the draft 20-year Statewide Transportation Plan for public comment.  The Metropolitan Council recently completed and issued its 2030 Transportation Policy Plan for the region.  These are interrelated documents, built with great cooperation between the two agencies.  Mn/DOT is also in the process of drafting the statewide freight and passenger rail plan, as directed by the state Legislature, which will be completed by the end of 2009.  Mn/DOT also issues 4-year, 10-year and 20-year investment plans based on expected state and federal revenues.  Rather than stating, as the CC seems to be doing, that there is no comprehensive transportation planning in the state, I feel the CC would be better served if it recognized the existing, legally required planning efforts, understand them, offer an objective critique, and then offer suggestions on how to improve those efforts to better serve the future of the state.

Shari Prest

Part A: (5) (7)
Part B:  (3) (3) (1) (7) (2)

Question 1:  No, the governor should be one voice among others. Not the primary say or politics are guaranteed to play a major role instead of vision, efficiency or efficacy. 

Question 2:  MnDot should be at the table but as one of the voices. Their role should be the roll out. 

Question 3:  They should be one voice at the table.          

Question 4:  If appointed on a bipartisan/strong expertise basis. Not elected because no one would know what they would be voting for. 

Question 5:  Not unless a visionary and fair system or commission is in place. 

Question 6:  (8) A bipartisan summit should be in place to create a fair and equitable vision that can roll out as part of a consistent, futuristic and realistic plan.

Kent Eklund

Part A:  (1) (9)

Part B:  (9) (2) (8) (5) (5)

This is a very tough issue.  MnDOT has been a great disappointment -- the power of the highway-oriented community continues to dominate.  The politics surrounding highways is extremely intense.  I just don't know how to break up the tradition of highways in this state.

Question 6:  Assignment to the governor makes some sense, although no governor has been immune to he pressures listed above.  We have a real quagmire on our hands.

Donald H. Anderson

Part A:  (3) (10)

Part B:  (5) (4) (0) (5) (0)

Are we so polarized over the question of taxes that we can't approach any problem in the better interests of the total solution to transportation problems with too many levels of government involved?

John Milton

Part A:  (0) (10)
Part B:  (0) (0) (10) (0) (0)

Chuck Slocum

The ideas or principles are generally sound, in my view.  We need to define a sense of positive, can-do urgency that will inspire widespread citizen support.   The “Preliminary Draft, Outline of Recommendations on Transportation Leadership paper needs some polish and rewording…too many negative “no” this or that.  Having a Minnesota governor “own” transportation like governor’s generally own education is excellent.

The state does need a long term, master plan, to be sure.

Repealing the two recent constitutional amendments that further fund transportation could be a waste of time and too costly. 

Being unwilling to take sides on what kind of transportation mode to use and the creation of a new political body could be unsound notions and that could further delay progress.

The idea of a larger Metro Council should not stand in the way of progress on transportation.

Wayne Jennings

Part A:  (3) (9)

Part B:  (4) (5) (6) (7) (4)

It's such a pleasure to drive on good uncrowded roads and to know that bridges are safe--mostly not the conditions at present. We have to be willing to pay to accomplish those goals through general taxes or user taxes. There is no reason we can't have excellent roads and bridges. It has to be taken out of the political realm. Transportation is not just roads. It must include rail service and other alternatives where they are feasible. Why continue to limp along on a 75% system when the cost of doing it right is not that great proportionately spread over years and then properly maintained?

Charles Lutz

Part A:  (3) (7)

Part B:  (6) (9) (6) (0) (4)

Roger Scherer

Part A:  (3) (7)
Part B:  (0) (5) (10) (0) (0)

Question 6:  I would humbly accept the challenge.


John S. Adams

Part A:  (3) (9)
Part B:  (4) (9) (8) (4) (5)

Transportation Policy for Minnesota
**Transportation, land use, metro-centered economies, and state & local fiscal arrangements comprise a single system.

** The state of Minnesota can be usefully understood as a mosaic of urban-centered regional economies, each composed of a major job center plus adjacent counties and local units of government that are more closely linked to that center--by means of daily employment/school attendance flows--than to other nearby centers. 

** Just as there is (A) a hierarchy of urban/metro centers--from (1) the Twin Cities, down to the (2) Duluths, Rochesters, and Mankatos, down to the (3) Marshalls, Thief River Falls and Grand Rapids, down to the (4) New Richlands and Morrises, etc.--there has been (B) a hierarchy of road networks serving these centers: (1) Interstate highways designed to link metro to metro; (2) U.S. highways designed to link big city to big city; (3) state highways ("farm to market roads") designed to link cities with their nearby trade areas; (4) county roads for local circulation within counties; (5) township roads for rural neighborhoods feeding county roads and highways; and (6) city streets for local needs within municipalities.

** MnDOT's state highway transportation plan defines 50 "regional centers" and has developed their highway plan to meet the needs of those centers, paying attention to how Minnesota's roads link with those of adjacent states and those serving wider regions.  MnDOT has created and reinforced the statewide framework within which lower-level, locally based road systems have attached themselves. 

** The multiplicity of overlapping governments in Minnesota raises serious obstacles to coordinating transportation planning--both for present needs, and for long-range strategic positioning looking ahead to, say, 2030.  Minnesota has 854 cities, 87 counties, 786 townships, over 500 school districts, plus other special districts like the Met Council-over 2,200 governments for a state of 5 million.  In the long-range scenario, airports and rail-based systems deserve more prominence, but MnDOT has been and is today essentially a highway department.  That orientation should change to improve the state's competitiveness in the year ahead.  Minnesota needs a serious forward looking, comprehensive "Department of Transportation" with expanded authority and jurisdiction.

** Most (but not all) of the value-added from goods and services production in Minnesota's regional economies occurs in and near the state's urban centers.  Cities and counties struggle to deliver local transportation and other services wanted and needed by local businesses and households, but there is a disconnect between the sources of revenues available to provide the services and the beneficiaries of those services, i.e., beneficiaries want benefits but want others to pay for them.  This gap is compounded by heavy local reliance on property taxes to pay for transportation, along with the belief on the part of many that manipulating transportation systems can endow specific places, sites, locales with improved accessibility, which will enhance the taxable value of those places, which will then provide local taxing jurisdictions with extra revenues to pay not only for the transportation improvements but also to provide additional net revenue for other purposes. 

** Options #2 and #3 seem most likely to work and to get the job done between now and 2030.  The present Twin Cities commuting field (by our research) comprises 25 counties (including 4 in WI) based on 2000 Census commuting data.  Both MnDOT and Met Council are state agencies.  If Met Council were responsible for planning in the 21 counties, and MnDot for the remaining 66 MN counties, and both agencies were obligated to coordinate their work, it would mean an improvement over present arrangements as I understand them.  This would not require changing the legal basis of the Met Council, but rather would require it to work in partnership with MnDOT for the purposes of long-range transportation planning.  Each lower level of government would be obligated to conform their local road and land use planning with the larger, statewide plan according to a state-based "A-95 authority-like" rule.  And the planning would include all the major transportation systems-roads, rail, airports, and water.  I don't know enough about pipelines.

** The job of the Met Council would be enormously eased IF the legislature authorized the full-fledged use of "Development Impact Fees" at the county and municipal levels.  Were the legislature to do so, it would drastically reduce the need to accommodate heavily subsidized growth on the edges of existing regional centers and the Twin Cities, and would redirect emphasis toward filling in and redeveloping existing urbanized land.  Were that to happen, there would be a major shift over the long term from building new facilities to maintaining and improving existing facilities.

Keith Swenson

Part A:  (0) (10)

Part B:  (0) (10) (0) (5) (0)

Terry Stone

Part A:  (2) (8)

Part B:  (10) (2) (7) (2) (10)

In spite of the political headwinds, a constitutional amendment to remove dedicated funding represents the best model of governance.

I can't think of a compelling reason to exclude air transportation from a comprehensive state transportation plan.  The availability of common carrier air transportation is important to quality of life and the economic development of many rural communities that are distal to the metro air carrier hub.

Don Fraser

I don't recall any description or discussion about how other states are handling transportation issues.  But with 47 states having to wrestle with most if not all of the problems we face, I would think that a look at the ways in which they are addressing these issues, and some appraisal of how well they are doing, would be instructive.  

Carolyn Ring

Part A:  (_) (8)

Part B:  (6) (8) (4) (0) (0)

Tim Olson

Part A:  (1) (5)

Part B:  (0) (2) (0) (0) (9)

Note that only 3% of our state population uses mass transit.

I support a free market approach to transit.

We should determine how many people rely on transit for medical or economic reasons, and they should ride for free...a public good.

The rest of operating expenses should be made up at the fair box.

Demand will determine the right sized transit system.

Larry Schluter

Part A:  (2) (7)

Part B: (2) (7) (4) (7) (7)

We need a commission to work out the needs for both metro & outstate based on where the revenue comes from.  It costs a lot more to maintain and improve roads in the metro area vs outstate.  It seems the money is split based on miles.

Bill Frenzel

Part A:  (0) (10)

Part B:  (6) (7) (5) (4) (10)

Question 1:  Not a bad option, but the governors don’t seem to want that ball.

Question 2:  No enthusiasm here, either, but I suppose MnDOT would do it if instructed.

Question 3:  This might be the best option (and the way it might eventually work out), but it would be a hard sell.

Question 4:   Some existing entity ought to be able to do it.

Question 5:   I would love this, but nobody else would. Fuggetaboudit.

Scott Halstead

Part A:  (0) (10)

Part B:  (0) (0) (0) (10) (0)

Question 6:  (10) Require transit fares to equal a minimum of 45% of the operating and maintenance costs for premium transit service and return of investment in 30 years.  Use local gas taxes to pay for local roads.  It is time to consider toll roads in Minnesota.

Paul Hauge

Part A:  (2) (9)

Part B:  (5) (7) (8) (_) (0)

Question 6:  A gas tax increase is an imperative.



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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