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 Response Page - James Solem - Ken Orski  Interview - Transportation Issues   

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Ken Orski Interview of 03-06-09.

The questions:

_7.8 average_____ 1. On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on claims that the federal government lacks a stated national purpose in its surface transportation (rail-bus-roads-freight-passenger) program?

_7.3 average_____ 2. On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether the state government--as distinguished from the federal government--should be responsible for establishing priorities on which transportation projects should be undertaken?

_6.5 average _____ 3. On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether the federal government should continue to pay a substantial share of capital expenses for transportation?

_6.7 average _____ 4. On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether operating expenses for transportation should be paid for by the states, not the federal government?

John Milton (7) (3) (10) (0)

It seems obvious that Gov. Pawlenty is more interested in his no-taxes image than taking leadership on this issue. That is a huge disadvantage for Minnesota when compared with states that have stronger leaders on transportation.

Robert J. Brown (10) (8) (5) (5)
I think that there should be a federal-state partnership in sharing both capital and operating expenses. If the feds just provide capital funds they create a problem for the state in that the long term maintenance costs can overwhelm the states for projects that they might not have undertaken without the pressure of “free money” from Washington.

Donald H. Anderson (10) (4) (6) (4)
The way the fractured transportation situation is today, I don't what the answer will be. Are we too fragmented with special interests to ever come up with a solution?

David Broden (8) (7) (5) (7)
Question 1: The lack of a federal focus statement seems to be very clear and something that is definitely needed vs. what appears to be a strategy based on the lastest trend topic or simply perhaps based on public opinion polls. One downside risk of a strongly stated federal policy is that a transportation policy could be viewed as a first set toward a national economic and industrial policy and planning effort--this should not be the result. We need a national goal for transportation but not a plan and control that will essential dictate what the free market and industry can and will do given the investment incentives and opportunity.

Question 2: There must be a clear distinction between interstate commerce and intrastate commerce in the planning and implementation of all types of transportation. The federal government should ensure movement of people and products that relate to interstate commerce and safety, defense etc.--but the state must have the authoity to set standards and the approach within the state as long the objectives for interstate commerce are met. There should be a good balance of inter and intra guidelines and purpose etc.

Question 3: There needs to be a continuing partnership between the feds and the states. States need more flexibility on how and which projects. The Feds need to ensure that interstate commerce flow to benefit all.

Question 4: The operating expense should be paid for by the user levels of government. If however the mode of transportation in consideration has been dictated by another unit or it is clearly shown that the mode of transportation has a national purpose then with a well defined criteria the fund could be jointly provided.

Steve Alderson (5) (10) (2) (5)
I still feel that too little understanding exists about the role played by long range planning in the state and regional transportation organizations within Minnesota. Take the TAB and Metro Council. They have a forty year plus history of regional planning and fund allocation in a framework intended from the beginning to be cooperative. Their legislative directives have not changed. They have been given some competition by the legislature.

There has been considerable staff continuity for thirty years. None of the topics that are brought up in your interviews are new and few transit or highway proposals being discussed today have not been on the table in the past. The result is that when new money appears there is a ready list of potential applications, projects so forth. Orski tells you the result. There is continual modal competition for the dollars and highway and transit interests are never going to agree. You might as well ask the Germans to endorse the French.

The real problem is operations and maintenance. The interstates were paid for with federal dollars but keeping them in good condition is a local or state responsibility. You can argue that we bought too much concrete in the first place to keep up with it. I fear that the current situation will go the same way. To that extent you are right when you say there is not a federal mission. With reduced funding levels for the past decade, MN/DOT had come to understand that they needed to manage expectations. Now that Uncle Sam has opened the coffers again, I am concerned that we will not have the conservationist frame of mind we should have. The good news is that 500 million plus or minus is not very much money and so may not cause too much damage.

Again please talk to someone who has looked at what projects have been built in the past ten years and why and were they good ideas or no? Start with the two recently completed Regional Principal Arterials Hwys. 212 and 610. What do they represent in terms of planning/funding decisions? What have they or will they achieve?

Glenn Dorfman (10) (10) (5) (10)

Fred Senn (10) (5) (5) (8)

A lot of people - from Tom Friedman to the President of the huge dealer group AutoNation to "Click and Clack" on NPR advocate a higher federal tax on gasoline as a way of curbing demand raising funds for transportation. Did that idea come up?

Bob White (5) (8) (6) (6)

Joe Mansky (7) (5) (10) (10)

I wonder if the federal government also has an interest in getting as much of our transportation system off of petroleum-based fuels as possible and make a switch toward electrification, which relies on indigenous fuel sources, if for no other reason but to limit our exposure to problems overseas and address the balance of trade situation.

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (0) (10)
Question 1: The federal government should limit its fund raising and responsibility to the U.S. and Interstate Highway System, Rail and Air system. State and local government should be entirely responsible state and local highway systems and all local transit systems.

Ques;tion 3: Absolutely not

Question 4: Operating expenses should be paid by fares and state and local taxes.

Bill Frenzel (10) (10) (10) (5)
Question 1: The only discernable nat’l purpose is re-election of the congress.

Question 2: Until, and unless, the feds have a purpose, states should set own priorities.

Question 3: If the feds are collecting the taxes, they ought to pay.

Question 4: Since feds are allegedly underfunding capital costs, what would they use to underwrite the fare box? Should further debase the currency?

Ray Schmitz (9) (5) (9) (9)
Question 2: In the same way there is interstate commerce vs intrastate there should be systems designed to facilitate both. I want to take a high speed train to Washington, but also a good bus or rail link to Mpls. and they should not be dependent on each other.

Question 3: For interstate systems yes, local no.

Question 4: Same as above.

Will Branning (0) (5) (10) (10)

Conrad deFiebre (8) (9) (10) (5)

Question 1: Orski's right about drift after the interstate system's completion. But it's unfair to say there's no national purpose at all in federal transportation policy. Smart improvements in all modes contribute to mobility, efficiency and economic strength, which is the point of all this. Even most earmarks contribute in some fashion.

Question 2: Unlike all politics, not all transportation assets are local. Most are, though. States and local governments should have the biggest planning role in most cases, but a federal hand is also needed to ensure efficient links across our vast nation.

Question 3: What do we mean by substantial? 80-20 for roads and bridges? 50-50 for transit? That's the current regime.

Question 4: What do we mean by operating expenses? Just transit? Or maintenance costs of roads and bridges, too?

Bert Press (5) (10) (10) (0)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (8) (10)(7) (6)

Chris Brazelton (5) (6) (8) (4)

I agree that we need to coordinate planning for transportation needs, with criteria based on many factors, including traffic/usage, cost effectiveness including construction and ongoing maintenance and environmental concerns. Repairs need to be tiered based on clear criteria, keeping politics out of the process as much as realistically possible.

Question 1: Not enough information to make an informed judgment.

Question 2: There needs to be clear goals when it comes to interstate transportation, passenger as well as freight, set at the federal level, but the states have a clear role for
determining intrastate needs.

Question 3: Would like to review alternatives more.

Question 4: As much as possible operating expenses should be paid by
users, and beyond that, the ratio would depend on whose goals are being met.

Carolyn Ring (8) (5) (5) (5)
Question 2: States should have priority on state roads and some U. S. Highways, but inter-states are another story.

Question 3: As Mr. Orski pointed out, there too often is no provision for ongoing upkeep at the federal level.

Question 4: This has the same inherent problems as in question 3, with no funds after the initial ones.

Hans Sandbo (9) (8) (2.5) (7.5)
Question 3: We need some coordination at the Federal level but "special interest" spending by strong persons in congress can take important spending away from
states that have weaker persons in congress.

Question 4: We would be a little closer to the deciders and there would be more of them representing broader interests.

Ray Ayotte (10) (10) (5) (_)

Bill Heegaard (10)( 5) (5) (10)

Shari Prest (7) (8) (7) (5)



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
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Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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