Prior to 2003, Minnesota's roads were the envy of the nation. Then, former Governor Tim Pawlenty's "no new tax philosophy" led to little change in the gas tax, coupled with less gasoline consumed, and with little revenue available from the general fund, our ability to upgrade highways and bridges was crippled. Superficial road repairs became the norm.
On August 1, 2007, Minnesota endured a disaster that captured the nation's attention. 13 Minnesotans died, as a 40 year old bridge collapsed while it's traffic bearing surface was being replaced. Now, our Republican controlled legislature, still refuses to raise taxes on the wealthy , still works to downsize government, and is starving the Minnesota Department Of Transportation.
There is a eight mile long section of Hwy 73 south of Cromwell, that is a bottleneck for car and truck travel between Moose Lake and the Range. This vital link in our transportation infrastructure is not much more than an old township road, held together by corduroy in the swampy areas, with tar on top. There are no shoulders. If you drive off the blacktop in almost any spot along this section of road you run the risk of roll over. If you have a flat tire you must drive on it until you find a driveway to pull into. School children are at great risk as they are picked up for school, and this highway can be flooded in heavy rains. Economic activity in Western Carlton County is choked by this old section of road.
Over the years, numerous plans have been drawn up for a complete rebuild of Hwy 73, but other things just seem to be just a little bit more important. When MNDOT is asked now for a timetable for a upgrade, their reply is, "unknown since there is not available funding." Still, the price keeps rising, and the latest estimates come in above $14million.
The Highway 73 rebuild is the number one highway project needed in House District 11A. Everyday that road is left in poor shape, a minor tragedy occurs in Western Carlton County. That tragedy is the loss of productive time and economic opportunity for residents in that area. Hopefully, a life-ending disaster will never unfold along Highway 73. Nothing should be more important than the economic health and physical safety of our residents! We need invest in poor rural areas too, we need to do better now, for all of 11A , and for all of Minnesota.