A tax to love?

The great thing about being governor is you can vehemently oppose a bill, and then take credit for its accomplishments later.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office sent out a news release today with a fair amount of back-patting for traffic congestion-relieving projects:

Motorists and transit riders in the south Twin Cities metro area will have an improved commute as several key components of a traffic congestion relief initiative open this week.

Governor Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel, Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell, and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez celebrated the opening today of two new transit stations in Lakeville and the launch of a new MnPASS Express Lane on I-35W.

“Moving people and goods efficiently around the Twin Cities is important for our economy and our quality of life,” Governor Pawlenty said. “Over the past several years we’ve made significant investments to improve our transportation system, including an additional lane on 494/694, MnPASS on I-394, the ‘Unweave the Weave’ project and many more improvements around the metro area. Now, thousands of people who use I-35W will have additional options to get to work or home faster.”

Let’s hit the Wayback Machine to find out where many of these projects came from.

What we have here is one example of what can happen when you raise taxes, for many of these projects came from the most contentious issue of the 2008 legislative session: The gax tax increase. You may recall Gov. Pawlenty vetoed the bill and it was one of the few times he lost a showdown with the Legislature.

Pawlenty called the bill “ridiculous.”

Update 4:18 p.m. Here’s the press release list of projects being cited by Pawlenty:

Express Bus Service

Lakeville residents now have new commuting options to downtown Minneapolis as Metro Transit began service today on I-35 from the new 750-space park-and-ride ramp at Kenrick Avenue in Lakeville, and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MTVA) also began offering express bus service today. MTVA began service this morning from a temporary park-and-ride at Crossroads United Methodist Church until the Cedar Avenue park-and-ride lot opens in two to four weeks.

“The UPA grant allowed us to accelerate the debut of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the metro area, helping to grow transit ridership, ease congestion and improve mobility. We also welcome the City of Lakeville to metro-area transit services,” said Council Chair Bell

Metro Transit express route 467 will offer nonstop service, with six morning trips to downtown and six return trips in the afternoon. Buses will travel on the new I-35W MnPASS lanes. New coach buses, which seat 57 customers, will be used on the route, featuring high back chairs, reading lights and overhead storage compartments. Travel time to downtown Minneapolis is about 30 minutes.

MVTA Route 477V offers five morning and five afternoon trips each weekday, also on coach buses.

MnPASS on I-35W

On Wednesday, almost 12 miles of a new MnPASS Express Lane will allow solo drivers the option to pay a toll to use the high occupancy vehicle lane on I-35W. Car pools with two or more occupants, motorcycles and transit buses will still use the Express Lanes free of charge. Similar lanes are in operation on I-394 and have proven popular with commuters with up to 150,000 vehicles a day driving on some portion of the 11 miles of roadway that runs from downtown Minneapolis to the western suburbs.

“The I-35W MnPASS Express Lanes will provide commuters with a more reliable commute between the south Twin Cities metro area and downtown Minneapolis,” said Commissioner Sorel

The new I-35W MnPASS Express Lanes include two segments: from Highway 13 in Burnsville to I-494 and from I-494 to downtown Minneapolis.

On the segment from I-494 to downtown, transit vehicles, carpools and MnPASS customers will be able to use a converted shoulder lane north of 42nd Street during certain times when traffic is congested. Electronic signs will alert drivers when the shoulder is open or closed. Construction on the Crosstown project continues, and the MnPASS Express Lane segment between I-494 and 42nd Street will open in fall 2010.

MnPASS drivers lease a small electronic transponder that attaches to their windshield behind the rear view mirror. The toll is automatically deducted from their pre-paid MnPASS account by toll recording equipment located on the road. Fees vary in amount by the level of traffic congestion in the MnPASS lanes. Commuters can open a prepaid MnPASS account in less than 10 minutes online at www.mnpass.net or by calling the MnPASS Customer Service Center at 1-866-EZ-RIDE4

Urban Partnership Agreement

The Urban Partnership Agreement is a series of transportation projects aimed at improving traffic conditions by reducing congestion on Interstate 35W, Highway 77/Cedar Avenue and in downtown Minneapolis. Through a combination of transit, road pricing, technology and telecommuting, project partners anticipate that commuters will experience more transportation choices, less traffic congestion and reduced commute times on some of Minnesota’s busiest roads.

Minnesota’s UPA partnership includes Mn/DOT, the Metropolitan Council/Metro Transit, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, University of Minnesota; Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties; the city of Minneapolis, and Transportation Management Organizations. This innovative partnership allows Minnesota to leverage federal dollars and keep project costs low while pioneering new ways to move traffic. Project components include:


· Expansion of the single-bus lanes to two-bus lanes on both Marquette Avenue and 2nd Avenue in downtown Minneapolis will nearly triple the capacity for the number of buses while reducing bus travel time by up to 10 minutes through the 16-block downtown area.

· Construction of nearly 2,700 new parking spaces at six new or expanded park and ride facilities along the Highway 77/Cedar Avenue and I-35W corridors north and south of downtown Minneapolis.

· Purchase of 27 new buses for new or expanded express service from the Highway 77/Cedar Avenue and I-35W corridors to downtown Minneapolis.

· Construction of a transit-only left turn lane at Highway 62/Crosstown and Highway 77/Cedar Avenue, completed in November 2008, is resulting in more predictable and quicker rides.

Road Pricing

· Existing high occupancy vehicle lanes on I-35W from Burnsville Parkway to I-494 are being converted to MnPASS Express lanes.

· Upon completion of the Crosstown project, a new I-35W MnPASS Express lane from I-494 to 46th Street will be opened.

· From 46th Street to downtown Minneapolis on northbound 35W, current bus-only shoulders are being replaced with priced dynamic shoulder lanes. Buses travel at free-flow freeway speeds instead of the current 35 mph limit on bus-only shoulders. The priced dynamic shoulder lanes will be used during peak periods and will operate as shared rapid transit lanes for buses and carpoolers and MnPASS express lanes for single occupancy vehicles.


· Electronic signage above the lanes on I-35W that provides real-time information that improves safety and keeps traffic moving to avoid congestion.

· Lane guidance technology using global positioning satellites and other techniques will be installed on ten buses to keep transit vehicles centered in narrow shoulder lanes, ensuring safe and fast operations on highway shoulders.

· Real-time electronic commuter information signage is being used at select locations along the I-35W corridor to alert motorists about the estimated time of the trip by auto and bus, and how many parking spots are still available at the nearest park and ride.

· Real-time bus arrival and departure signage will be used on Marquette and 2nd Avenues and at select transit facilities along the Cedar Avenue/Highway 77 and I-35W corridors to alert transit customers about arriving and departing buses.

· Transit signal priority on Central Avenue from 2nd Street to 53rd Avenue will provide an advantage for transit and help maintain transit schedules.

· Cameras and instrumentation on Highway 13 connecting to the I-35W and Cedar Avenue/Highway 77 corridors will provide traveler information for motorists and improve traffic flow.


· Partnerships with major employers along the I-35W corridor and in downtown Minneapolis will be established to promote flex-time and telecommuting programs with a goal to increase the number of telecommuting workers by 500 individuals by 2011.

  • BJ

    thanks for my daily laugh.

  • Craig Westover

    What you have here is what happens when you make wise investment of transportation dollars in true public goods, independently of whether the money comes out of existing or new taxes.

    The tax question is, “Why do we have to raise taxes to pay for this project which has tremendous cost benefit while at the same time spending state dollars on light rail systems that cost hundreds of million of dollars, operate at loss, and provide private benefits not public goods? Or bike paths? Or whatever other lower cost/benefit items we are spending money on.

    That said, one cannot defend Pawlenty on this. He should use the opportunity to reiterate his opposition to tax increases while we’re putting money into inefficient projects instead of taking credit for the success of something he opposed.

  • David Arcaine

    (golf clap) for pawlenty!

  • Bob Collins

    The irony — at least for some of the projects abov e — is the main beneficiary appears to be residents of the 2nd Congressional District.

  • Frank C.

    It’s hard to get excited over improvements to Metro Transit because the message is always the same: Metro Transit will get you anywhere you want to go reliably and in a reasonable amount of time as long as you’re going to/from downtown Minneapolis between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday and there’s no threat of rain, snow or road construction.

    Improvements to downtown St Paul service? Unheard of.

    As I’m standing in downtown Minneapolis each morning after riding a bus there to wait for my connecting bus to downtown St Paul, I suspect that Metro Transit’s most frequent routes will continue to be “Garage”, “Not in Service” and “Go Twins”.

  • Bob Collins

    Don’t get me started. We’re spending a bazillion dollars on transportation and I STILL can’t get a bus from Woodbury after 7:50 a.m.

    And our sales tax increase money in Washington County? Well, spend it wisely Dakota, Ramsey, Hennepin, and Anoka.

  • tiredboomer

    I’m proponent of public transportation however this has all the feeling of a road rebuild with a move in the direction of toll roads.

    In the morning television news, this story was back-to-back with the story about the closing of eight Anoka-Hennepin schools (just another district in an ongoing story). Public transportation and public education aren’t mutually exclusive but if you care about the future of this country, the school story has to be pretty disturbing.

  • Bob Collins

    If you’ve got 2,000 fewer students — as is the case in that district — why would you need the same number of schools?

  • tiredboomer

    Bob, there are a couple of things I find troubling. Admittedly they are just a “sense”, no hard facts.

    First, 250 students per schools seems a little light (2000 fewer students, 8 schools closed). My elementary school had about 630 students (3 classes each grade, about 30 students per class, K-6.

    Secondly, and I must say here I support private schools, my spouse teaches in one. I sense the 2000 student loss is not entirely due to population loss. Some of those students have gone to private schools and home schooling. MY BELIEF is that the public schools system helps unite economic and religious groups in a common experience. As the wealthy and religiously devout opt-out of public schools, their representation in the common experience diminishes … everybody is the poorer for it.