Our district envelopes the city of Saint Paul and surrounding suburbs, including Mounds View, Roseville, Little Canada, Maplewood, Lake Elmo, and Woodbury, to name a few.
The region is picturesque. It was shaped by the Mississippi River, a true force of nature that figures prominently in our history and economy. The St. Croix hugs its eastern border.
We appreciate city conveniences and the ability to retreat to the calm of our communities. Our streets, highways, and interstates can sometimes be inadequate to the task of getting us from point A to point B without congestion. We have started to wonder about local bridges with capacity limits or telltale erosion. We raise our kids here, run our businesses here. Quality of life—and the safety of future generations—hinges on improving all aspects of infrastructure.
Our legislators need to hear from us. Click the Raise Our Grade button and let them know you support investment in our infrastructure.
Our district’s urgent needs
Infrastructure projects will address critical problems, prepare structures for current and future capacity, and maintain, expand, and improve essential systems. Much-needed funding will cover design/engineering, materials, and construction.
A Short Story of Infrastructure: Mighty Mississippi, Robust Economy
Every day of the shipping season, the Mississippi River is a bright star in Saint Paul’s economy.
Good for Minnesotans
When the Saint Paul port opens each spring, tugboats and barges begin travelling in both directions along the riverbank. Pulling into port, barges unload tons of road salt, fertilizer, construction aggregate, cement. Going out, they haul the bounty of Minnesota’s agriculture—soybeans, corn, wheat and other grains—destined for the Gulf of Mexico and ports around the world. They also move coal, steel, scrap metal for recycling, petroleum, and molasses. Over 6.8 tons of commodities passed through Saint Paul’s four ports in 2016.
River shipping is safe…efficient…environmentally responsible. At 9 feet deep, 35 feet wide and 200 feet long, a barge moves enormous loads. Hauling the 58,333-bushel load of one covered hopper barge would require 144 trucks or 46 rail cars. Shipping by water frees up roads and transports commodities quickly.
Support From Leaders
Minnesota farmers have long depended on the river to move their products to market. Farmers create nearly 20 percent of the gross state product, and the Mississippi River transports about 60% of that export. With one in every four Minnesota workers employed in agriculture and its related industries, it is no wonder that legislators on both sides of the aisle support the vitality of St. Paul’s inland ports. The legislature has approved funds for the Port Development Assistance Program in 2018, 2017, and 2015.
Problems and Needs
But when American infrastructure investment stagnated decades ago, vital port improvements and expansion began going undone. Today, some structures—especially those built in the 1930s-1960s—are reaching the end of their useful life. There’s not enough money in the budget to repair aging terminals and deteriorating dock walls.
Building for the future is also often shelved.
– At three of Saint Paul’s shipping terminals, railroad tracks cut off access when railcars are being unloaded. Truck drivers and employees at the terminals can’t get in or out, resulting in down time and loss of business.
– Port development must account for more extreme weather events. (Flooding in 2014 prevented barges from entering the port which significantly delayed the delivery of aggregate and cement. It nearly shut down Minnesota Department of Transportation projects.)
– The sizes of cargos are increasing. By increasing the sizes of locks and dams to accommodate larger freight, Saint Paul ports can proactively address the issue of congestion and prevent delays that affect Minnesota businesses and imports/exports.
Our Ports Need Help
When the American Society of Civil Engineers released its 2018 report on Minnesota infrastructure, Minnesota ports received a C+ grade and identified numerous concerns: “corrosion of steel structures, dredging backlogs, dock wall construction, [the need for] creation of new storage facilities, building/road rehabilitation, improving land access to the ports, gentrification, and upgrades to meet safety codes.”
But there are few signs that American infrastructure investment will occur without pressure from a concerned public. Farmers and Minnesota businesses worry that, in time, infrastructure investment overseas will make American products less competitive, which will have a devastating effect on Minnesota’s economy.
Funding For Quality of Life
Ports along the Mississippi and Lake Superior (the Saint Lawrence Seaway) add millions of dollars to the state’s economy. Every part of our Minnesota infrastructure affects our lives. Whether airports, dams, water treatment, roads, or bridges, infrastructure is part of our Minnesota quality of life. They ensure our ability to compete in the world and contribute to our safety, economy, and convenience. We must have infrastructure spending now to maintain our quality of life—and to assure a good life will be possible for our children and grandchildren in the future. We must Raise Our Grade, Minnesota.
Story images © Saint Paul Port Authority
Funding for Quality of Life image © Minnesota Department of Transportation