Messages from the Council Chair

Building better for a brighter future

November 2021

Chair Charlie ZelleIt doesn’t matter if you drive, take transit, bike, walk, or roll to get around — the new federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is going to have a big impact on your daily life. Strategic, thoughtful investments in transportation are essential to maintaining a high quality of life and are critical to our region’s economy.

The Met Council is forecasting our region will add 563,000 people in the next 20 years. We must we plan and build to ensure that our transportation system keeps pace with that growing population and an expanding economy.

Currently we are barely keeping up with the needs of our transportation system. A 2018 report by the Minnesota Department of Transportation estimated we’d have to invest $1 billion a year in highways for the next 20 years — and right now, we’re barely spending half that. The American Society of Civil Engineers grades Minnesota’s roads at a D+ statewide and our bridges at a C. Transit gets a C-.

While it’s too early to tell how much additional federal funding will go to individual programs, we have a good idea of how much of the nearly $1 trillion bill will be appropriated to Minnesota infrastructure. Over the five-year life of the bill, the state will receive a total of $6.8 billion.

  • $4.5 billion for federal-aid highway programs
  • $302 million for bridge replacement
  • $818 million to improve transit and public transportation
  • $680 million will come to the state to improve water infrastructure
  • Additional funds will go to improving airports, broadband access, and cyber security

Of particular interest is the $68 million to build out electric vehicle charging stations in Minnesota. The Met Council has been working in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to research and plan for electric vehicle adoption. That research will help identify and prioritize the best places to put chargers.

Nationally, the bill boosts funding for fast and frequent transit programs like bus rapid transit. While this money isn’t dedicated specifically to Minnesota, the Twin Cities region has been successful in attracting federal funding for projects like the METRO Orange Line, which will connect Burnsville to downtown Minneapolis. These extra resources will help Metro Transit continue to build out the next generation of bus service.

In addition to the extra funding, it’s important to note that this is a five-year bill. For over a decade, transportation funding has been occurring in one- or two-year bills that have primarily just extended the last piece of legislation with minor adjustments. Making a concerted decision to invest more aggressively in infrastructure and providing certain funding several years out ensures projects are planned and executed in a more thoughtful manner.

I’m excited about this legislation because it’s going to spur great discussions with cities, counties, neighborhoods, and communities. We’re in a place to make big plans about investments in our region’s future.