Why this whole “fix our roads” thing is a crock of crap

If you’ve paid any attention to local politics (I know, it’s hard to watch anything other than “The Donald”) You’ll know that if we don’t pass “sustained road funding” everyone in the state will die from starvation as no goods or people will be able to get around anywhere. EVER AGAIN.

Don’t believe me? A quick google search will bring up some great results.

Here’s some opinion pieces from the St. Cloud Times, The Post Bulletin, and the Free Press.

I’m glad we have these local newspapers to take such a hard stance on road funding. Apparently it’s so obvious that we need road funding that it’s no-brainer when it comes to op-ed pieces. “Just get more money and build the roads, right guyz?”

Yeah. That simple. Except if it were so simple, we would have done it already.

The truth of the matter is, it’s a load of crap, pretty much all of it (with a few exceptions.) The system is broken in it’s entirety and no matter what anyone promises with new road funding, none of it will solve the systemic problem that we’ve built too much.

I’m not going to disagree with you that there are bad roads out there that need fixing, nor am I going to disagree with the fact that the system needs to be funded and funded sustainably, what I am telling you is that unless the system shrinks and we address more pertinent issues, we’ll never get out of this pit.

Iowa, our cool southern neighbor, has already realized this and is planning accordingly. If you want to read more on this and essentially a better version of the article you’re reading now click here.

Again, I’m going to tell you this, our biggest problem isn’t transportation funding, it’s terrible land use. Say it with me “TERRIBLE LAND USE”

We recently heard that Mankato is going to dump a bunch of money into a road pushing east, a road that has essentially no development on it, nor will it in the foreseeable future. It’s being hailed as “necessary” because it “will be the busiest intersection eva in 30 years or somethin’ like that. lol

Let’s not forget that, more or less, the SAME CLAIM was made about victory drive extension as promoting economic growth. So, how much “economic growth” showed up for that $12.5M extension of Victory Drive? By my count, there’s 131 acres of primo, undeveloped land abutting (or close enough) to Victory Drive. Hey, we’ve made WAY worse decisions if it’s any consolation.

Do you think our roads have magically deteriorated to the point they are in the last 10 years? I guarantee the roads were in largely the same shape 10 years ago when the city approved this ridiculously wasteful expansion of Victory Drive. Now they want the same thing for Adams.

The state is pitching in $753,000 for the Adams street extension, needless to say, this is an egregious waste of taxpayer money that the state has no business funding. The whole extension could have been avoided if we simply were to plan a little better and hey, maybe not arbitrarily cap the rental properties so we don’t have to build these chicken coops for people on the edge of town.

The fact that taxpayers from the iron range are funding an unneeded extension for a local road in Mankato should tell you why MNDOT is broke.

So here’s the skinny, when the legislators show up and say “are roads are horrible, we need more money” they’re absolutely right, but we all know it’s not going to get spent on fixing anything, it will be gobbled up in more wasteful expansion of roads that we don’t need and that will be a financial burden in short order. When we get money, we don’t fix, we just build more.

Look at Wikersham health clinic. They show up and say “we want to build a new clinic” and the city says “Ok!” Infrastructure is run and roads are maintained… except Wickersham is way at the edge of town meaning the only chance of getting there is by car.

That is the problem, forcing people to drive. It hurts the middle class ($9k a year!!!) and if we don’t change how we build our cities and get around, it’s going to hurt our economy more than it already is. The feds are expecting a 40% bump in freight traffic in the next 30 years. That’s 10%+ increase EVERY YEAR. If we don’t get civilian traffic down and get people moving around in other ways, we’re screwed. No, seriously, like really screwed.

But this is how the system works, you build whatever you want, wherever you want and we’ll pick up the tab. This is why we’re broke. A policy that inhibits density and subsidizes band land use seals it’s own demise right from the get-go.

We’ve brought this upon ourselves and honestly, if we go flat broke as a state, I think that would be just great. We’re an addict in need of a real life wake up call, a smack in the face. When the whole system starts to fall apart and we don’t know how we’re going to maintain all the public items on our ledger, only then will we make tough choices and use our budget wisely.

“Gentlemen, we have run out of money. It’s time to start thinking.”-Earnest Rutherford

Cover photo from _ChrisUK on Flickr

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going forward.