Dem Presidential Candidates on Transportation Policy and Funding

Are you voting in the DFL primary? Who should you vote for? There are many, many different considerations for which candidate best represents your views or responds best to your concerns. One of those concerns, perhaps, involves transportation and land use in Minnesota.

On this here website these particular issues are discussed on a daily basis, and there are more ins and outs than my small brain can fully comprehend. Will we have high-speed rail to Duluth or Chicago? Should we have more regional BRT or centralized aBRT? Is LRT better than BRT? Should we have form-based zoning or no zoning at all? Are 4-plexes going to ruin or save the neighborhood? Should we discourage “market rate” housing developments in poor neighborhoods? Are scooters the scourge or salvation of micro-mobility? Will self-driving cars increase or decrease congestion or parking lots?

Federal policy and funding will affect many if not all of these local issues. I’m personally looking forward to the Rush Line BRT and hoping there will be sufficient federal funding to see it built by 2026. I’d also like to see high speed rail between the Union Depot and Chicago. The Gold Line project was just rated poorly because it doesn’t have enough park and rides, and that criterion should be reversed.

We have roads and bridges in need of repair (such as the 3rd St / Kellogg bridge?), but we also have roads and bridges that could go away (such as the 3rd St / Kellogg bridge?). Some presidential candidates actually talk about addressing wounds that infrastructure has brought (I-94, I’m looking at you), while others don’t.

If you don’t have the time to scour candidate websites but you care about alternative transportation, I am here for you. I searched through the campaign websites of the top six Democratic presidential candidates for information regarding public transportation, walking and bicycling infrastructure, passenger rail, and funding for “roads and bridges.”

The majority of this post comes as direct quotes from candidate websites. Some of these quotes are abbreviated to focus on transportation issues. One of the issues cut out is in regards to transportation electrification. This may be of high importance to you, so feel free to follow the websites to learn about their positions on this.

Please sound off in the comments about:

1) How these candidate positions will most affect issues in Minnesota you care about

2) What I missed

One suggestion for a quick glance: use your “find” function to search for the word “billion”.



Joe Biden (via Wikipedia)

Build resilient infrastructure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biden will invest in expanded public transit systems, giving more Americans an affordable, efficient way to get around without their cars. He will help state and local governments plan for the widespread adoption of electric cars, and will coordinate and invest in the construction of a national electric-vehicle charging network to power them. Biden will also push to build a national high-speed rail network

Jump-start the repair of our highways, roads, and bridges. Biden will propose to immediately spend $50 billion over the first year of his Administration to kickstart the process of repairing our existing roads, highways, and bridges. In addition to sending these funds to states, some of the dollars will go directly to cities and towns that own and run most of our roads. Biden will also expedite permitting, so that projects can break ground faster.

Make American roads the world’s safest. The federal government must lead the way in making our streets and highways safer. Under President Biden, the U.S. Department of Transportation will work with cities around the country to build “complete streets,” designed to help drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and others safely share the road. Biden will also work with Congress to increase federal funding for key safety initiatives like the Highway Safety Improvement Program; and to encourage state and local governments to explore new technologies that can reduce accidents, including “smart” pavement, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, connected intersections, and other infrastructure-related innovations.

Invest in historically marginalized communities and bring everyone to the table for transportation planning. He will create a new Community Restoration Fund, specifically for neighborhoods where historic transportation investments cut people off from jobs, schools, and businesses. And, he will work to make sure towns and cities directly receive a portion of existing federal transportation investments.

Stabilize the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund has for far too long been grossly underfunded. Biden will ensure new revenues are secured to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund in order to build roads, bridges, and public transportation projects

Spark the second great railroad revolution. Biden will make sure that America has the cleanest, safest, and fastest rail system in the world—for both passengers and freight […] Across the Midwest and the Great West, he will begin the construction of an end-to-end high speed rail system that will connect the coasts, unlocking new, affordable access for every American.

Offer tens of millions of Americans new transportation options. Biden will aim to provide all Americans in municipalities of more than 100,000 people with quality public transportation by 2030. To that end, he’ll increase flexible federal investments, helping cities and towns to install light rail networks and to improve existing transit and bus lines. He’ll also help them to invest in infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists, and riders of e-scooters and other micro-mobility vehicles. And, Biden will work to make sure that new, fast-growing areas are designed and built with public transit in mind. Specifically, he will create a new program that gives rapidly expanding communities the resources to build in public transit options from the start.

Reduce congestion by working with metropolitan regions to plan smarter growth. Biden will create a competitive grant program to help leaders rethink and redesign regional transportation systems, to get commuters where they are going safer, faster, and more efficiently. At the same time, Biden will boost highway funding by 10%, and allocate the new funding to states that embrace smart climate design and pollution reduction, incentivizing them to invest in greenhouse gas reduction. States will also be free to use existing highway funding for alternative transportation options.

Connect workers to jobs. Biden will dedicate an additional $10 billion over 10 years specifically for transit projects that serve high-poverty areas with limited transportation options, so that workers seeking a better life won’t have to spend as much getting to their jobs.



Bernie Sanders (via Wikipedia)

Build public transit that is affordable, accessible, fast, and resilient. With a $300 billion investment, we will increase public transit ridership by 65 percent by 2030. We will ensure that reliable, affordable public transit is accessible for seniors, people with disabilities, and rural communities. In addition to expanding transit service to communities, we will promote transit-oriented development to link this service to popular destinations and vital community services.

Build regional high-speed rail. Many other developed nations have advanced high speed rail systems. A $607 billion investment in a regional high-speed rail system would complete the vision of the Obama administration to develop high-speed intercity rail in the United States.

Increase funding for roads. Our national roads and highway system is crumbling. That’s why Bernie’s Rebuild America Act provides $75 billion for the National Highway Trust Fund to improve roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure in the United States and another $2 billion for other surface transportation needs.

Repair freight and passenger transportation networks. This plan ensures that our freight transportation is fully renewable by 2030 at latest, but to ensure the safety of those transportation networks, the Rebuild America Act provides $5 billion for TIGER grant projects that build or repair critical pieces of our freight and passenger transportation networks that are located in rural areas.

Retrofit our public infrastructure to withstand climate impacts. Beyond repairing our existing crumbling infrastructure, we must ensure that our public highways, bridges and water systems are ready for climate impacts we know are coming. We will invest $636.1 billion in our roads, bridges, and water infrastructure to ensure it is resilient to climate impacts, and another $300 billion to ensure that all new infrastructure built over the next 10 years is also resilient.


Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren (via Wikipedia)

Inexplicably, I can’t find info on transportation or infrastructure aside from electrification and “green” jobs.


Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg (via Wikipedia)

Faster: Reduce Congestion and Bottlenecks to Get America Moving. Mike’s plan will repair 240,000 miles of roads and 16,000 bridges by 2025, and allocate $850 billion over 10 years to critical capital investments in roads, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure – helping to create millions of jobs.

He will establish a $1 billion annual “pothole” fund to make emergency repairs and expand Surface Transportation Block Grant Program funding to $30 billion a year. Require that states devote a quarter of their grants to fixing any local bridges in poor repair.

And, over the next five years, Mike will triple funds annual federal investment in public transit, including $12 billion per year in a new operating assistance program to improve service and attract new users. Mike will ensure that transit is accessible for seniors and those with disabilities. And, he will also triple funds for local alternative transportation projects, including bike lanes.

Mike will invest in transit and infrastructure for biking, walking and other mobility options. He will:

  • Launch a competitive grant program for 10 large and 10 small communities to pilot car-free zones, superblocks and other innovations.
  • Significantly increase investment in public transit and infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians (and other mobility options), including investments in transit accessibility.
  • Invest in airport transit connections.
  • Change federal subsidies to make transit, cycling and other mobility options as appealing as driving.

Mike will give Americans more choices for long-distance travel. To get there, he will:

  • Plan regional higher-speed rail networks and working with states to jump-start construction, building at least one new high-speed rail corridor by 2025.
  • Invest in electrifying the existing rail system.
  • Use low-cost loans to improve and electrify inter-city bus service.


Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg (via Wikipedia)

Empower local communities with flexible funding and increased access to expertise. Pete will double the BUILD program (formerly TIGER) to $2 billion annually, make it easier for smaller cities and rural areas to apply, and evaluate proposals using new metrics, such as a project’s ability to serve low-income communities.

Increase collaboration across states and regions. Pete will establish a $3 billion per year grant program to help states and metropolitan planning organizations pursue projects of both regional and national significance that serve increasingly interconnected networks of cities and towns.23He will provide an additional $2 billion to expand financing programs for these types of projects, such as the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program.

Public Transportation. Expanding access to public transportation helps people get to jobs and services more quickly, easily, and cheaply and decreases greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, every dollar invested in public transportation drives about four dollars in economic returns. To address existing needs, we must repair current systems and implement critical new projects that expand and improve service. Pete will invest over $160 billion in partnering with states, cities, towns, and tribes to improve public transportation.

Build equitable public transportation in cities and towns. Pete’s climate plan provides $100 billion in grants and loans for cities and towns to bring existing transit systems to a State of Good Repair and expand subway, light rail, intercity rail, and bus rapid transit service. Pete will also double Capital Investment Grant funding so that more communities can get support from this oversubscribed and extremely popular program. He will encourage municipalities to develop comprehensive mobility plans that improve services like bike-sharing and low-cost ride-sharing, which will make travel easier for low-income residents. Pete’s DOT will also map communities where residents have limited transportation access to basic services like grocery stores and health facilities and provide dedicated funds for transportation in these communities. New transportation systems will use zero or low-emissions technologies and, as outlined in Pete’s plan for a new era of inclusion for people with disabilities, be fully accessible.

Dramatically expand accessible rural public transportation. Rural counties have more limited public transportation options than urban ones, which creates barriers for many residents, including aging Americans. Pete will dramatically increase funding by $12 billion to expand rural public transportation. As outlined in his rural health plan, he will improve access to existing options, create new rural transit hubs, and leverage new technologies like ride-sharing services. His DOT will also help states to make commuting to school free or more affordable through initiatives like buying free transit passes for rural, low-income students.

Cut the backlog of critical road repairs in half over 10 years. Pete will ensure that 50 percent of roads in poor condition get fixed within 10 years by incentivizing states to use federal formula funds to repair existing roads and bridges. Currently, states can spend formula funds on building new roads rather than fixing roads. This particularly affects low-income communities and those with large minority populations, who wait the longest for badly needed repairs–if they receive them at all. Pete’s DOT will strengthen State of Good Repair Performance Management requirements and require states to develop achievable plans for maintaining their roads before they use federal funds for new roads or expansions. DOT will evaluate states’ progress every year to ensure that they are prioritizing repair and maintenance and also have the flexibility to pursue key expansions.

Repair half of structurally deficient bridges by 2030. Over 47,000 bridges in the United States are structurally deficient and waiting to be fixed.35To make our bridges safer and more reliable, Pete will create a $50 billion grant program for states to repair bridges. This will enable states to fix at least half of structurally deficient bridges by 2030, with funding prioritized for the most unsafe bridges.

Make the Highway Trust Fund solvent. Reliable federal transportation funding is important to connect farming communities, cities, and towns. Yet the Highway Trust Fund has been insolvent since 2008, causing uncertainty about whether states can complete critical projects. Pete will inject $165 billion into the Fund to ensure that it remains solvent through 2029. He will require his DOT to propose a new and sustainable user fee-based system, such as a vehicle-miles-traveled fee with appropriate privacy protections that is already being piloted by states and can potentially replace the gas tax. Within such a system, discounted rates can be offered on a sliding scale based on income.

Build safer roads for all. Pedestrian fatalities in traffic crashes have soared this past decade, reaching 6,200 in 2018. Native American and Black pedestrians are particularly likely to die in traffic crashes. Pete will provide incentives for states, cities, and counties to build safe, accessible roads and retrofit existing unsafe roads. He will double funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program to install more accessible sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes and will update design standards to maximize safety across transportation types. Pete’s DOT will work directly with tribal communities to ensure that roads in Indian Country are safe for children and families.

Connect funding to safety performance. Pete will require state transportation agencies to set road safety targets that reduce the number of fatalities and injuries caused by traffic crashes. Today, states can legally set annual targets that allow an increase in roadway deaths and serious injuries each year. His administration will require states to actively improve their safety records or road design processes, or else lose federal funding for other roadway projects


Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar (via Wikipedia)


Amy is proposing a bold, trillion-dollar plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure, invest in our future, and create millions of good-paying American jobs […] Amy’s infrastructure plan will be her top budget priority, and she will work to get it done during the first year of her presidency.

Repair and replace our roads, highways, and bridges. The collapse of the 35W Bridge was a tragic reminder that America has failed to maintain the roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure that keep our people safe and our economy strong. Amy will make smart investments to repair and replace our roads and highways, reduce congestion, upgrade America’s over 50,000 structurally deficient bridges, fix the roads and bridges washed out by the recent floods in the Midwest, eliminate the “pothole tax,” and stabilize the Highway Trust Fund. A world-class transportation system will increase our safety and lower costs for commuters and businesses that depend on getting goods to market.

Expand reliable public transit options and update rail infrastructure. Our country’s investments in public transit have not kept pace with the demand for reliable public transportation, particularly for low-income communities and communities of color. Amy will increase investments in public transit with a focus on decreasing barriers to opportunity and reducing our energy consumption, overhaul our rail infrastructure when it comes to freight and passenger rail, and bring high-speed rail to more communities. These investments will strengthen our communities and make it safer and easier to get to work and school.

Boost federal infrastructure investment. In parts of our country where communities are not as densely populated or former hubs still adjusting to the loss of manufacturing jobs, it can be difficult to attract private investment. That’s why Amy’s plan includes more than $650 billion in federal funding for infrastructure. And she is committed to ensuring that there is public engagement and transparency in the infrastructure planning process.

Help states and localities leverage private funds. Amy will establish an independent, nonpartisan Infrastructure Financing Authority to complement existing infrastructure funding. The Infrastructure Financing Authority will help states and localities better leverage private funds to build and maintain the nation’s outdated infrastructure. Amy would allocate an additional $25 billion in seed money to support an additional $250 to $300 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement. It would also direct funding to projects in rural areas so that smaller communities can make much-needed infrastructure improvements.

Issue “Move America Bonds,” “Build America Bonds,” and Clean Energy bonds. Amy would bring back the Obama Administration’s “Build America Bonds,” which provided states and local governments a direct 35 percent subsidy in lieu of the traditional tax-exempt bond and generated more than $180 billion to finance public infrastructure projects. Amy also supports the “Move America Bonds” which build off of the “Build America Bonds” but also allocate tax credits to private-sector purchases to attract capital investment to public infrastructure. Here, an $8 billion investment from the Treasury would support over $200 billion in investments in infrastructure projects over 10 years.

Strengthen transit and commuter rail networks and support low- and no-carbon alternatives. As President, Senator Klobuchar will refocus federal transportation grants to prioritize transit projects, first and last mile connections, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. She will also develop new incentives for transit systems and school districts to replace their existing bus fleets with low- and no-carbon alternatives.

Revitalize freight and passenger rail. Railroads are an energy- and cost-effective way for producers to bring their goods to market and get people where they need to go […] She is also committed to expanding high-speed rail and Amtrak service in rural America.

Strengthen rural transportation infrastructure. Rural transportation infrastructure is at risk from the effects of climate change. As President, Senator Klobuchar will invest in the repair and improvement of rural bridges that are not part of the federal-aid highway network…

End federal fossil fuel subsidies. For too long, taxpayers have subsidized the massive profits of fossil fuel companies. Senator Klobuchar will end federal tax subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and production.



Eric Saathoff

About Eric Saathoff

Eric Saathoff is a public school teacher living in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul. He is a regular walker, cyclist, transit user, and driver with his wife and three young children. Eric serves on the Payne-Phalen Community Council and the St Paul Transportation Committee.