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Session 2004

Session 2004: Transportation

Senate DFL leaders say they want to scrutinize the list of highway projects that MnDOT plans to accelerate with money from a transportation package passed last year. Sen. Dean Johnson (DFL-Willmar), chair of the Senate transportation committee, says the projects are heavily weighted toward the metropolitan area, and the western suburbs in particular. He says Transportation Commissioner and Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau may have trouble being confirmed. The Legislature may also look at the Pawlenty administration's proposal for "FAST lanes", or toll lanes built by private entities. Governor Pawlenty says he doesn't need legislative approval for FAST lanes, but some legislators disagree. -- Laura McCallum

Gov. Tim Pawlenty Tuesday announced a plan to kick-start the Northstar commuter rail line, a project that hasn't received legislative approval. Pawlenty plans to use several sources of money to begin the first phase of the project. Northstar supporters are thrilled, but legislators who oppose the project say Pawlenty is doing an end-run around the Legislature. (08/03/2004)
The Northstar commuter rail line linking Minneapolis with its northwestern suburbs has taken a step backward. On Tuesday night, a House committee voted to strip funding for the project from a bill that finances long-term state construction projects. The Northstar line has the support of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and key legislative leaders from both parties. But a group of mainly Republican opponents engineered a miniature revolt by making the opposition an offer it couldn't refuse. (04/28/2004)
When House Republicans released a $683 million capital improvements package this week, it contained a transportation project that surprised some observers. The bill includes $4 million for a testing facility for personal rapid transit -- PRT. The idea has the support of some fiscal conservatives who don't usually support mass transit projects. Skeptics call it a boondoggle. (04/23/2004)
The snow has melted, but the debate over last winter's snowplowing continues. State transportation officials on Wednesday released a report showing the state Department of Transportation met its snowplowing goals over the winter. But they say it took longer to remove snow and ice from the roads because this winter was snowier than the year before. DFL legislative leaders who criticized MnDOT all winter say the agency is putting a positive spin on its poor plowing performance. (04/21/2004)
While the bus strike may soon be over, the debate over transit funding is heating up at the Capitol. Gov, Pawlenty and House Republicans have proposed cutting the Metro Transit budget, while Senate Democrats want to increase transit funding. Transit advocates say Metro Transit will need more money to regain riders after the strike, and further cuts will cripple the agency. (04/14/2004)
As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, state Department of Transportation officials had a message for motorists: Prepare to spend some time idling in traffic. "It's not something we're doing to them - it's something we're doing for them," said Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau, also the state's lieutenant governor. (04/06/2004)
Advocates say the region's lack of transit isolates people without cars. Business leaders predict growing roadway congestion will stall the Twin Cities economy. A rising chorus of voices is clamoring for a comprehensive Twin Cities transportation plan to address the problems. But there's little agreement on what to build and how to pay for it. (04/04/2004)
A committee in the Minnesota Senate has voted to remove Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau from her job as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The recommendation now moves onto the full Senate which will make the final decision on Molnau's future. Molnau serves in the unique position of holding both the lieutenant governor and transportation commissioner titles. Critics say Molnau doesn't have a balanced plan to improve Minnesota's roads, bridges and transportation needs. (03/30/2004)
Business owners in outstate Minnesota say the state's highway system is on the verge of a crisis, and they're urging lawmakers to spend more money to maintain and improve highways. (03/18/2004)
A group of lawmakers is asking the state transportation department to slow down its plans to authorize new toll lanes on some Minnesota roads. The Minnesota Department of Transportation on Tuesday invited companies to comment on how privately-built toll lanes might work, but legislators say the agency is moving to quickly. (02/24/2004)
The legislative session that began Monday may determine the fate of the proposed Northstar commuter rail service. Under the latest version of the plan, commuter rail cars would carry riders about 40 miles from Big Lake, north of the Twin Cities, to downtown Minneapolis. Supporters say the line is needed to relieve congestion on Highway 10 in one of the state's fastest growing corridors. Opponents acknowledge the corridor's rapid growth, but they say numbers used to support a commuter rail line don't add up. (02/03/2004)
Gov. Pawlenty Tuesday reversed years of opposition to a northwest metro commuter rail line linking Minneapolis to Big Lake. Pawlenty is now offering nearly $40 million in state funds to jumpstart the Northstar Commuter Rail line. The governor says a new cost-benefit analysis helped convince him that the project deserves support. But the change of heart has left many of Pawlenty's former legislative colleagues upset and disappointed. (01/13/2004)
Gov. Pawlenty says the state's transportation system is in crisis, and is offering up toll lanes as one solution. The Pawlenty administration will soon seek bids from private entities to build toll lanes on congested corridors. Some legislators question whether the proposal will do much to solve the state's transportation problems. (12/30/2003)
Gov. Pawlenty has announced plans to allow solo drivers to pay a fee to use lanes reserved for car pools and buses on Interstate 394. Pawlenty says the toll lanes are one way to reduce traffic congestion. His administration is also planning to speed up construction of 12 major highway projects around the state. The selection of those projects came under scrutiny at a Senate committee hearing right after the governor's announcement. One key lawmaker even raised the possibility that the governor's transportation commissioner won't be confirmed. (11/05/2003)