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City faces major funding gap for street work

Updated: March 8, 2016 - 3:51 pm

Minneapolis faces a $30 million annual funding gap to keep pace with street repairs and reconstruction projects.

An additional $300 million investment over the next 10 years would ensure that the city’s average pavement condition index (PCI) would be around 70, which is considered “fair,” said Lisa Cerney, deputy director of the city’s Public Works Department during a presentation before a City Council committee Tuesday.

If the city’s current projected funding for street projects remains the same, the street’s average PCI would dip to around 10 by 2033 — a level considered “very poor.”

The city’s street network includes 630.9 miles of residential streets, 378 miles of alleys, 206.7 miles of Municipal State Aid (MSA) streets and 65.8 miles of local streets.

The city’s current annual funding level for street work is about $25 million for reconstruction, resurfacing and preventative projects. Public Workers leaders say $55 million is needed to keep the streets in “fair” condition.

Public Works Director Steve Kotke said in coming years the city will have to invest more in reconstruction projects. In the past eight years the city has focused on resurfacing projects because the cost of reconstruction is so high.

Many of the city’s streets were constructed or reconstructed during the 1960s and 1970s and are reaching the end of their lifespan.

City Council Member Lisa Bender (Ward 10) called the discussion “timely” since city leaders are also mulling a $300 million referendum for the city’s parks to address a backlog of maintenance issues.

“For me it’s really important when I’m making decisions about different funding requests to keep in mind this big picture of the city’s infrastructure needs,” she said. 

City Council Member Cam Gordon (Ward 2) also raised concerns about the challenges of repairing concrete residential streets — an issue he has faced in his ward.

Mike Kennedy, the city’s director of transportation maintenance and repair, said the concrete streets are among the oldest in the city. Many of them are in need of aggressive renovation work or reconstruction.

“Concrete streets tend to last longer than asphalt [streets], but when they go, they go hard,” he said.

City leaders haven’t presented a formal plan to address the funding gap for street projects, but Kotke said there have been discussions with the Finance Department exploring possible ways to fill the gap.

City Council Member Kevin Reich (Ward 1), chair of the Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee, said the city is addressing the challenge “head-on.”

“This is a statewide conversation,” Reich said, noting that bridges get a lot of attention, but the state’s streets need investment as well. 

David Prestwood, a spokesman for Mayor Betsy Hodges, said the mayor supports more funding for city streets and parks. She’s been having discussions with Council members to “gauge their appetite to finding a solution,” he said. 

“Infrastructure issues are obviously something that every city faces. After years of budget cuts, we need to rebuild that infrastructure and she’s open minded on how to deal with the problem,” he said.