GOP Senator: Road projects needlessly mothballed

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, chair of the Senate transporation committee, says road contractors are already feeling the pinch of a looming state government shutdown.

Gimse said today that projects like the replacement of a the Bren Road bridge over US 169 in Minnetonka could have started as soon as tomorrow, according to a letter to MnDOT and copied to Republican legislators by Minnetonka City Manager John Gunyou.

Here’s the letter.

Gunyou Letter

Gimse says the letter is proof that MnDOT is telling contrators that they won’t have legal access to state right of way — the room they need to work — if the state shuts down.

“They have thousands and thousands of miles of road right of way across the state of Minensota,” Gimse said at a Capitol press briefing this afternoon.

“They don’t supervise every mile of that road right of way. These contractors know what they’re doing, they understand what they’re doing. It’s simply a way, I believe, for them to inflict additional pain. It makes no sense. It’s simply grass area on the sides of the road where equipment will stand, where materials will stand. And maybe a staging area.”

MnDOT didn’t have an immediate response to Gimse’s accusations.

He called on Dayton to call the legislature back into session and allow lawmakers to pass a bill that would let billions of dollars in dedicated road funding keep flowing.

“We could get it done in four hours,” Gimse said.

Update: Here’s a response from MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht:

MnDOT is the legal owner of trunk highway right-of-way and is responsible for its condition.

By state law, it is illegal to do work in state right-of-way unless it is authorized by the state road authority. MS 160.2715.

MnDOT inspectors insure that contractors are meeting contract specifications when constructing any type of infrastructure. Not conducting the inspections could put taxpayers at risk financially if the work needs to be done over. And, if work does not meet appropriate safety specifications, it could put the driving public at risk.

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