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Transportation funding gaps likely to grow

WILLMAR--Transportation funding needs will continue to grow as the state attempts to expand public transit services in rural areas and maintain its existing roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

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Sara Dunlap Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR-Transportation funding needs will continue to grow as the state attempts to expand public transit services in rural areas and maintain its existing roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

The funding gap for state transportation needs is projected to be in the range of $18 billion over the next 20 years, and that's based on a strategy focused on preservation and not expansion, according to information from Mark Nelson, planning director of the transportation system management office with the Minnesota Department of Transportation's central office.

Nelson joined others from MnDOT in outlining plans for addressing rural transit, highway and intermodal transportation needs to members of the Area Transportation Partnership for MnDOT's District 8 region on Friday in Willmar. The district includes 12 counties served by the Willmar MnDOT office.

Nelson said an updated transportation planning projection anticipates revenues of $21 billion in the next 20 years, which is an increase from earlier projections. MnDOT has identified $39 billion in investment needs during the same period. Over $30 billion of the needs are for the state's road systems, while the remainder includes transit and intermodal transportation.

Motorists can anticipate deteriorating roads and bridges as funding lags behind the needs. MnDOT expects that 18 percent of state roadways that are not part of the national highway system will eventually be rated as "poor,'' according to the information presented.

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The Legislature is requiring that MnDOT expand public transit services in Greater Minnesota. The goal is to increase transit services from 13.3 million rides in 2015 to 18.9 million rides in 2025.

The plan to meet the demand will require an additional $114 million in funding by 2025, according to Sara Dunlap, planning coordinator with MnDOT's office of transit. The needs include adding 226 new vehicles to the fleet.

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