Twin Cities road woes are more than potholes

Yes, the bathtub-sized craters are annoying and expensive when they cause tire blowouts, major front-end suspension repairs, dental or optometrist visits to repair chipped teeth and cracked lenses.


The bigger picture is even more daunting.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation construction season announcement of 258 statewide road and bridge projects costing nearly $900 million only hints at the story.

A good share of our roads and bridges are at or near the end of their useful life.

Many were built 40 to 60 years ago, and engineers say that’s about what we get in Minnesota given our weather, the damage from big trucks and all the chemicals we pour on the roadways.

We have about 134,000 miles of federal, state and local roads. That’s the country’s fifth largest system.

Twelve thousand of those miles are the state’s responsibility to repair and maintain.

Much of the rest are the responsiblity of cities and counties, and they are strapped. Their road budgets are chronically short of money, as is the state’s, to pay the repair bill. So local governments dip into property tax revenue.

Our “user fees” — the state and federal gas tax, the license tab revenue and motor vehicle sales tax revenue — do not cover the cost.

Talk abounds about options, buses and rail for example, taking some of the pressure off our road system. However, annual transportation surveys show very few of us use the existing versions of those options.

Should gas reach $4 a gallon, how will that change our transportation attitudes?