poll asking "tell us what you think about the draft investment direction"

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is collecting feedback on its future budget for the state highway network, called the Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP). This network includes interstates like I-94 and other state highways like Olson Memorial Highway. This plan will guide how MnDOT spends its $35,000,000,000 budget on the state highway system over the next 20 years. MnDOT’s public comment survey is open through early May so now is a critical time to make your voice heard.

MnDOT’s current draft investment is objectionable. The plan proposes investing billions in infrastructure that harms communities and worsens the climate crisis. It would spend $1.1 billion for highway expansion and $587 million on “freight bottlenecks”. It also proposes spending nearly $12 billion on highway pavement projects. While part of this budget item would go toward necessary repair projects on rural highways, it would also fund the reconstruction of urban highways, locking in pollution and disconnection for another 50 years. Even worse, this budget ignores the abundant research which shows that building bigger highways only makes traffic worse.

Minnesotans now have the opportunity to provide feedback on this budget and ask for infrastructure investment that puts people first instead of cementing highway harms for another half-century. The draft budget could be greatly improved by shifting funding away from highway expansion and toward projects that decommission urban highways and replace them with people-centered streets and new community development. A recent University of Minnesota Duluth study highlighted past examples of such projects.

Fake Climate Action

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state of Minnesota. MnDOT has billions of dollars that it could use to reduce emissions by funding projects that increase access to walking, biking, and transit and reduce the need to drive. 

At first glance, it appears that MnDOT is acting on climate, as $473 million is budgeted for “climate action”. However, this is just 0.5% of the total budget. Even worse, a closer look reveals that none of these funds would go toward projects that actually reduce emissions. Instead, they focus on making highways less susceptible to the future impacts of climate change and extreme weather. This is a classic example of greenwashing.

Take Action

Take MnDOT’s feedback survey before it closes on May 1st! Tell MnDOT to stop spending billions on projects that worsen climate change, pollute marginalized communities, and only make traffic worse. Ask instead to invest in projects that improve walking, biking and transit mobility, reconnect neighborhoods, and repurpose highway land for community benefit.

Here are some suggested comments to include:

  • The proposed plan is a gross mismanagement of state resources and would double down on infrastructure that harms people and our shared environment.
  • Urban highways harm the communities who live, work, and go to school near them and contribute to health issues including childhood asthma, dementia, cancer, hypertension, and reduced life expectancy. These impacts disproportionately harm poor communities and people of color. Highways are not accessible for many people, including people with a disability and those who cannot afford to own cars
  • Decades of previous projects have shown that highway expansion does not reduce traffic congestion. We should not waste billions of public dollars on projects that harm people and the climate and only worsen traffic congestion. No funding should go toward “highway mobility” projects.
  • Investments in safety should prioritize projects with slower traffic speeds, less space for cars, and more space for people walking, rolling, and biking
  • Transportation is the state’s biggest emissions sector; however, the listed climate action activities would do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Significantly more funding should be allocated to climate action, and projects must specifically aim to reduce vehicle miles traveled and increase walking, biking, and transit access.
  • There should be a new spending category to fund projects to decommission urban highways (including I-94 between downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Olson Memorial Highway, and I-35 in Duluth) and replace them with multi-modal streets and restored community development.

You can also share your feedback by contacting MnDOT’s project manager Brad Utecht at Bradley.Utecht@state.mn.us or 651-366-4855.