By Bill Neuendorf, TLC
In September, MnDOT released a draft of a long-term vision for our state’s transportation networks – a vision that will lead to the development of numerous transportation plans and will guide the investment of tens of billions of dollars of investment in the coming years.
An intensive six-month process to develop the vision included input and idea-gathering from groups and individuals throughout the state. TLC staff and members took part in these sessions and recently submitted comments on MnDOT’s proposed vision (see link to comment letter below).
While vision statements tend to be idealistic and aspirational, they can effectively set the tone for future policy, programs, and action. With a budget of nearly $2.0 billion annually, the importance of an equitable and results-oriented vision is undeniable.
MnDOT’s draft vision recognizes that Minnesota is changing. Our population is growing older; younger generations and new immigrants have different transportation and housing preferences; and our society is realizing that dependence on fossil fuels is neither reliable or sustainable.
The vision articulated by Minnesotans through MnDOT’s stakeholder engagement process shows that residents continue to value tradition and well-founded community-planning principles. They also value:
- Transportation options, whether that be public roads, public transit, or safe public sidewalks and bike routes
- Reliable and affordable public transit
- Connections for pedestrians and bicyclists – infrastructure designed for people rather than just cars and trucks
- Improved safety for all road users
- A connected network of roads, transitways, waterways, and paths that address the needs of today and tomorrow.
What does this new vision mean for Minnesota’s transportation investments? It could mean that our roadways and other transportation projects are better connected and intertwined so that efficiency and cost-effectiveness are improved. It could mean that pedestrians, young and old, have the ability to connect more easily with their neighbors. It could mean that deliveries and commerce continue to move efficiently and productively throughout the state and beyond. Or it could result in just another document sitting on the shelf collecting dust.
Defining the vision is only the first step. To ensure that we move toward this vision, the money must line up with the vision and goals must be specific and measurable. TLC will encourage MnDOT to engage Minnesotans early so that community input can meaningfully shape transportation planning and the design of individual projects.
TLC is committed to bringing transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians to the table. We hope that having a visionary menu of community-supported transportation projects will mean that Minnesota residents are well served for generations to come.