Image of wide highway intersection. MnDOT's I-94/252 project is an example of the department ignoring the concerns of impacts community leaders.

Major transportation projects, both in the past and in the present, have displaced and segregated minority and low-income communities, contributing to economic, racial, and environmental inequality. Highway planners ignored the objections of impacted communities and bulldozed their neighborhoods.

Today, MnDOT is required to develop one or more design “alternatives” for major, federally-funded highway projects to fulfill requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Minnesota Environmental Protection Act (MEPA). However, this requirement does not require MnDOT to select or even study solutions preferred by the communities directly affected by the project. A current example is the I-94/252 project, where MnDOT has continued to advance expansion options despite abundant and long-standing opposition from community members and local elected officials.

To ensure that the voices of impacted communities are heard and that all options for the projects are fairly studied, we are advocating for a “community preferred alternative” bill that would require MnDOT to study a project option if an impacted local government (i.e., the Brooklyn Center City Council) passes a resolution asking the department to do so. MnDOT solicits community input, but a requirement would codify a commitment to prioritize the desires of affected communities.

Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives introduced HB 5154, a similar bill that would require TxDOT to study “an alternative design for the project that has been approved by a vote of the governing body of a municipality or county that represents an affected local community; and the negative impacts to an affected local community from previous transportation projects.” Minnesota legislators should pass such a law this session. 

Furthermore, the new law should include a requirement that MnDOT must obtain a favorable vote from a project’s policy advisory committee before moving forward with selecting a preferred alternative and beginning construction. For most major projects, MnDOT creates a policy advisory committee or PAC. The PAC comprises elected and appointed officials from impacted communities who provide decision direction. However, the PAC does not currently have formal decision-making authority for the project, and MnDOT can ignore their concerns. The Community Preferred Alternative Act would make community consent mandatory before major transportation projects can move forward.

Ask your legislators to support the Community-Preferred Alternative Act.

Take action and contact decision-makers.