The Minnesota Legislature is in the middle of a relatively short session. Numerous important topics are being addressed, perhaps none more-so than the transportation package.
Non-trivial amounts of Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure are either beyond their original design service life or rapidly approaching that point. Experts have identified an unmet need of approximately $10 billion (with a “B”) over the next decade, just to provide needed maintenance for the system.
As regular observers of the Minnesota Legislature might know and expect, Republican Senators and Legislators are committed to providing this vital funding through use of one-time money (thank you, surplus!), gained efficiencies within the Department of Transportation, and bonding. House Democrats on the other hand wish to raise the gas tax (which hasn’t increased since 1962!) despite the facts that millennials are not driving and those who do drive are doing so in increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles. Add additional complications related to transit (two large capital projects as well as numerous systems improvements) and the escalating rancor between urban and rural citizens (with some suburbanites thrown in for, you know, flavor), and you’ve got the makings of a doozy of a rush hour on the 35W / 94 Commons during a snowstorm on the same day as a Vikings home game after the Green Line derails!
Experienced political watchers also know that despite having overwhelming workloads, the legislators still have the ability to fit in seemingly small, but invariably beneficial, amendments to bills being pondered. One such case this year deals with addressing a costly safety issue, namely that almost 2,000 (with a “T”) deer / vehicle accidents occur yearly (PDF) in Minnesota. In a blinding example of efficiency, House members inspired by House Bill HF 3208, submitted HF4116 (link / text not available at this time) instructing the MN Department of Natural Resources to ensure that all deer in the 10 counties with highest accident rates be provided with, and be compelled to wear, high-visibility markings. In a nod to practicality, the markings may consist of either clothing or paint, and consistent with HF 3208, may be either orange or pink.
Members of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Bored are promoting this proposed law in hopes it can provide much-needed jobs for workers in the under-utilized mining industry. Transportation Safety groups are as yet not willing to comment on this.