photos of Minnesota State Representative Frank Hornstein and State Senator Scott Dibble

Transportation Committee Chairs are Blocking a Twin Cities Highway-to-Boulevard Conversion Study

Minnesota State Representative Frank Hornstein and State Senator Scott Dibble may claim to be champions for progressive transportation legislation, but when it comes to the future of I-94, they are blocking progress on a generational opportunity to repair the harms of past racist transportation planning decisions. The two DFL Transportation Committee Chairs are barring a committee hearing for H.F. 2270 and S.F. 2180, bills to fund a feasibility study of a highway-to-boulevard conversion of I-94 between downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul. This inaction comes despite immense community support and Sen. Dibble’s own bill co-authorship.

This opposition is happening as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major new report yesterday advising policymakers to take immediate action to reduce carbon emissions. Rep. Hornstein confirmed he has no intention of scheduling a hearing before the transportation committee deadline of this Friday, March 24, 2023, single-handedly stopping the opportunity for the study to be funded this session, as the bill must have a hearing by Friday in order to be included in the larger transportation finance bill.

The proposed bill allocates funding for MnDOT to study a boulevard conversion as an alternative and would require the agency to study critical impacts that are missing in their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), like public health, racial equity, climate, and economic justice. It would also require MnDOT to consider induced demand and traffic evaporation in its traffic modeling, which is needed to give a boulevard conversion a fair analysis. This is a common sense step to further understand this option before the Rethinking I-94 project decides the corridor’s future.

There is broad community support for this study. Our Streets Minneapolis canvassers have knocked over 16,000 doors along the I-94 corridor. Of those Minnesotans spoken with, more than 75% are in favor of a comprehensive study of the Twin Cities Boulevard option.

Instead of scheduling a hearing for the $600,000 study on a solution to repair I-94’s harms (just 0.05% of what will be spent on transportation this session), Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Dibble permitted a hearing for a $200,000,000 bill for highway expansiondespite the fact that widening highways has been repeatedly proven not to work, increases emissions, and pollutes marginalized communities. For example, the Corridors of Commerce program is funding a project that would potentially expand I-94 through North Minneapolis and expand Highway 252 into a new freeway through Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, all majority-minority communities (sound familiar?)

By preventing highway removal from being legitimately studied and pouring more money into expansion, Sen. Dibble and Rep. Hornstein are choosing to delay climate action and worsen racial inequity, mirroring the racist transportation planning decisions of the past. These actions are especially concerning as the IPCC warns that it is now or never for rapid climate action and advises policymakers to “prioritis[e] equity, climate justice, social justice, inclusion and just transition processes [that] can enable adaptation and ambitious mitigation actions and climate resilient development.”

The climate crisis aside, the over 100,000 people that live, work, and go to school along I-94 will continue to deal with the highway’s air and noise pollution and its impact on their health. A feasibility study would shed light on how the highway impacts surrounding residents and how a boulevard conversion would impact outcomes like heart disease, asthma hospitalization, cancer, and statistically lower life expectancy. With the help of MnDOT, the Transportation Committee Chairs Sen. Dibble and Rep. Hornstein’s decision to block the feasibility study bills behind closed doors puts a fair analysis of the highway-to-boulevard conversion in jeopardy.

You can let Transportation Committee Chairs Rep. Frank Hornstein and Sen. Scott Dibble know that you do not appreciate their decision to block a feasibility study and ask for a committee hearing before Friday.