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Rethinking transportation funding

Photo by Lee Sobel

Photo by Lee Sobel

A couple of weeks back, Chuck Marohn put together a planning/policy wonk's dream: a 5-part series on transportation funding in Minnesota. While he does get into the weeds of the particulars of funding in that state (where revenue options are strictly limited by state government) I think it's well worth a read for people in any state. The ideas and approach are universal, even if the solutions may be different.

The simple reality is: all of us are going to have to come to grips with the fact that we can't continue to fund infrastructure as we have been since the Eisenhower administration. We simply don't have the money. We've been embarking on a historic experiment for a couple of generations now, and the bill is coming due. States with slower growth are the front lines in this regard, as they're dealing with the financial constraints today. But the faster growth states will eventually meet this reality as well. In short: we've built far more infrastructure than we can ever afford to maintain without taxing ourselves into oblivion. A new mindset and approach will be needed.

From Part 4 of Marohn's series:

This week we have shown how our current discourse on transportation funding is a one-dimensional debate over just how much more we will spend on the same exact approach. At Strong Towns, we reject such a myopic vision. We envision an approach to funding transportation that builds the collective wealth of all Minnesotans and, in doing so, strengthens the state. We won’t settle for second rate.

Just because governments own, run and manage a system, they don’t magically become immune to the financial constraints imposed on all capital endeavors. We understand howour current transportation system – despite the generally good intentions of policymakers for the past several decades – has become desperately insolvent. Drawing inspiration fromthe financing of the transcontinental railroad network, we have put forth seven operating principles to govern the financing of a world class transportation system for Minnesota.

Marohn then dives into a series of detailed proposals for funding both roadway and transit infrastructure. I was frankly a little surprised to see hardly any comments or response, given the importance of the issue and how many people have strong opinions regarding it. But then, such detailed prescriptions are often hard to digest quickly. Sometimes the Internets seems to lend themselves better to simplistic buzz-feeds rather than thoughtful commentary.

Nonetheless, if you're at all interested in transportation funding or taking a peek into the debates of the future, the whole series is worth a read.

Friday photo: 4/11/14: Where am I?

Walking to the store

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