Skip to main content

MnDOT chief: $50B for transportation needed, funding options in play

  • Author:
  • Updated:

The state of Minnesota needs an eye-popping $50 billion to maintain and build new transportation infrastructure in the next two decades, Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle tells MPR.

How would the state raise that kind of cash? A number of funding mechanisms remain on the table, including tax increases, tolls and user fees, Zelle says.

"If you think of the population coming into the metro area, we just aren't equipped to handle the population and maintain the quality of life the state enjoys," Zelle, who took the helm at MnDOT in January, said on MPR's The Daily Circuit show.

Drivers who spend any time on Minnesota's weather-beaten roads know the streets take a beating, especially in winter and spring. Zelle says the state will need $21 billion in the next 20 years just to maintain infrastructure. But the state also needs new and expanded infrastructure, including rail line and airport projects, Zelle said.

Zelle is visiting different areas of the state on a campaign of sorts to drum up support for a long-term transportation plan. Here's an outline of the issues he faces, and the highlights aren't pretty:

– 50 percent of state highway pavements are more than 50 years old
– 35 percent of state bridges are more than 50 years old
– Minnesota is ranked 38th nationally for pavement condition

Minnesota has the fifth-largest highway system in the nation, with more than 140,000 miles of city, county, township and state roads – and transportation revenue is flat while its costs escalate, the Pioneer Press noted this summer.

The Metropolitan Council has a plan for improving transit in the seven-county metro area, but MnDOT had lacked a comprehensive statewide plan to "show how it all fits together," Zelle told the Pioneer Press.

New projections from the Metropolitan Council released last week showed that the Twin Cities metro area could grow by nearly 1 million people by 2040.

Here's a bit of good news for the state: An analysis by the Associated Press found more than 7,000 bridges around the country that could be at risk of failure because of the need for repairs. But fewer than three dozen of those are in Minnesota, where the collapse of the Interstate 35-W bridge six years ago generated a new commitment to bridge repair.

Next Up

st. cloud state university hockey

SCSU player hospitalized after being taken off ice on stretcher

Luedtke was checked into the boards in the first period and down for a reported 10-15 minutes.

Amber alert wisconsin

Amber Alert in Wisconsin: Search for missing 15-year-old girl

Police believe 15-year-old Kryssy King may be with a 22-year-old man.

Screen Shot 2022-10-01 at 10.18.12 AM

3 St. Paul fast food restaurants robbed in space of an hour

The thieves struck between 7:15 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Screen Shot 2022-10-01 at 9.06.40 AM

What to do with the Kmart site? Minneapolis wants your ideas

The project will connect Nicollet Avenue south of Lake street and north of the Midtown Greenway, reestablishing a street grid.

Screen Shot 2022-10-01 at 7.53.55 AM

Crowd evacuated at end of homecoming football game in Brooklyn Park

Police blamed 'unruly teens' in the stands and some who were trying to enter the stadium.


State to help 44 Minnesota gas stations add E15 pumps

The yellow 88 button is coming to more gas stations in Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2022-09-30 at 4.54.42 PM

FBI, police investigating bank robbery at Edina's 50th and France

An ATM technician was robbed by four men at a U.S. Bank.

Ethan Glynn

Paralyzed Bloomington football player begins rehabilitation in Colorado

Ethan Glynn is at a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital.

Press Bar fire

Owner of St. Cloud bar gets 6 years for arson, ordered to repay $3M

A February 2020 fire at the Press Bar and Parlor was later determined to be an insurance job.