Investing in a greater Minneapolis

The 2013 Minneapolis budget that I delivered two weeks ago makes important investments in improving our streets, bridges, bikeways and other infrastructure that I’d like to tell you more about.

Streets

Five years ago, we realized that our plans to improve our streets were not keeping up with the need, and that we needed to do more. So we began the Infrastructure Acceleration Program to improve one-third of our busiest arterial streets in five years.

With one year left on that program, we have improved 107 more additional miles of streets — from Chicago Ave. S. to Dowling Ave. N., and just about everywhere in between.

Still, that wasn’t enough to keep up with the need, so last year I proposed a new, five-year capital-improvement budget that is 60% larger than we had previously planned, which the City Council passed.

In 2012 alone, this means that we are improving 70 miles of streets. Two of the streets that are being completely redone this year are ones almost everyone notices:   

  • Nicollet Avenue, which we are rebuilding from Lake Street to 36th Street this year and 36th to 40th Streets next year. I drive Nicollet many mornings, and both my alignment and I are getting much happier.
  • Riverside Avenue. Coupled with the renovation of Riverside Plaza and the completion of the Central Corridor light rail line, the West Bank will be one of the America’s most physically well-connected and economically vibrant neighborhoods.

Our deepest thanks go to the residents, businesses and patrons of these neighborhoods. When done, these improvements will make life easier and safer for everyone.

And in 2013, we will invest 300% more in improving our roads than we had planned for just two years ago.

These three maps show the difference between our improvement plans five years ago, the additional improvements we made with the Infrastructure Acceleration Program, and the many more that we will make through 2017 thanks to our new capital-improvement plan. It’s pretty impressive.

Bridges

We just marked the fifth anniversary of the tragic 35W Bridge collapse. We said at that time we would never again take our common infrastructure for granted. The progress we are making on bridges shows we are delivering on our promise.

  • The Plymouth Avenue Bridge will be open once again to traffic in October while we continue work on it for another year.
  • We have broken ground on the Van White Bridge that will directly connect North Minneapolis to South Minneapolis.
  • We will begin structural repairs on the 10th Avenue Bridge in 2014, creating exciting bike and pedestrian links between the West Bank, the University, Downtown, Marcy Holmes and Northeast.
  • And remember that we rebuilt the long-delayed Camden Bridge just two years ago, thanks to stimulus dollars from the Obama Administration.

Bikes

My budget continues to invest in bicycle infrastructure: by the end of 2012, Minneapolis will have 182 miles of on- and off-street bikeways that serve nearly 32,000 people every day, and we will add more in 2013.

I’m particularly pleased that in next year, my budget funds the Bluff Street bike trail, which will finally connect the University of Minnesota trail on Bridge No. 9 to the downtown riverfront along South Second Street, through a tunnel in the 35W Bridge that we fought to have included when the bridge was being built.

How we pay for it

People sometimes ask why we don’t spend infrastructure dollars on other needs, like police or firefighters. The answer is that capital improvements are paid for by selling bonds whose proceeds can only be used on capital improvements and cannot be used on staff.

We can make this major, new capital investment in our infrastructure only because we have made the hard-nosed choice over the last 10 years to pay down $241 million in inherited debt, which has allowed us to restore Minneapolis’ AAA bond rating — meaning it costs less to borrow for these improvements.

Investments pay off

Investments in our infrastructure pay off in the long term — by helping businesses grow, people get to jobs and home values rise — and in the short term. For example, this winter, we will spend $100,000 less for road salt because we invested in spreaders that apply salt more efficiently. That’s great for the bottom line — and because that means we will spread 5,000 fewer tons of salt this winter, it’s great for our lakes, rivers and creeks, too.

Passing on a greater Minneapolis

We stand on the shoulders of people who were bold and visionary enough to build a Minneapolis of great roads, bridges, schools, parks and one of our America’s best water systems. With my budget, we are investing to pass on an even greater Minneapolis to our children and grandchildren.

Please let me know what you think by contacting me here or me at rt@minneapolis.org, with “Infrastructure” in the subject line.

 

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