Lawmakers restart talks on how to pay for fixing MN's roads and bridges

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Minnesota's lawmakers are talking about roads and bridges again.

The House and Senate transportation committees met Monday to start the conversation before the first day of the Legislative Session (March 8), the Session Daily reports.

That's because both Democrats and Republicans agree that the state's transportation infrastructure needs help. Last fall, MnDOT said it's going to need about $16.3 billion more than it's going to get over the next two decades to address issues the department expects to crop up.

The issue has been agreeing on how to pay for it.

When it was discussed last year, Democrats wanted, in part, a hike on the wholesale gas tax; Republicans preferred to reassign money from the surplus and other areas and use it for the roads.

So what happened? What they approved was essentially a "keep the lights on" bill, maintaining status quo until they could pick it up again in 2016.

That time is almost here now. At Monday's hearing, Session Daily says, lawmakers from both parties acknowledged they're going to have to find a compromise. But they'll need to bridge the current gaps in their plans.

Here's a document that gives a breakdown of the plans from Republican-controlled House, the DFL-controlled Senate, and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.

MnDOT said the transportation infrastructure in Minnesota is the fifth largest in the country, but half the state’s highways and more than one-third of the bridges are more than 50 years old.

Last spring, a national transportation group put out a report detailing the state of Minnesota's bridges – finding that in 2014, Minnesota drivers took 628 million trips over "structurally deficient" bridges.

A "structurally deficient" description only signals there is some sort of defect – it doesn't indicate how severe that defect is, the National Bridges website explains.

Here's video of Monday's meeting.

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