What does it take to get six Democrats and three Republicans to work on the same goal?
The answer: When Minnesota needs federal money to rebuild roads, bridges and highway interchanges.
Most of Minnesota’s congressional delegation wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking why the state didn’t get any funding through the Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant program this year.
Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer joined with his Republican colleagues, First District Rep. Jim Hagedorn and Eighth District Rep. Pete Stauber as well as Democrats Angie Craig, who represents the Second District, Third District Rep. Dean Phillips, Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar and Seventh District Rep. Collin Peterson. Minnesota’s two Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, signed on too.
The Minnesota crew’s letter asked: “To provide clarity to the many competitive applicants from our state, we ask DOT provide insight into the grant-selection process. Since the inception of the Transportation Investment Generating Economy Recovery program in 2010, discretionary federal transportation funding from TIGER, and now BUILD, has played an integral role in improving the safety of Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure, including funding for rebuilding bridges, roads and highway interchanges. Throughout the years, the state of Minnesota, its counties, and cities have submitted competitive grant applications to address critical transportation needs in the state and have been awarded these funds.
“While DOT awarded $900 million in BUILD grants this fiscal year, Minnesota did not receive any funding while other states received up to three grants. As a result, Minnesota communities were deprived of a key opportunity to improve the safety and efficiency of transportation networks across our state as well as the economic benefits of direct investments in reliable infrastructure.”
The letter concluded with a typical Minnesota nice passive/aggressive paragraph: “We respectfully request you share with us the determination behind the merits and compared benefits of projects against Minnesota applications. As you consider award funding for next year’s BUILD grant program, we urge you to provide clarity to applicants about their projects to improve Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure.”
Emmer was more blunt in a statement accompanying the letter. “Minnesota received zero federal funding for one of the largest transportation and infrastructure grant programs. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Despite the partisan passions on Capitol Hill, our representatives still do work together. Elected officials from different parties usually reach consensus on infrastructure projects. Roads, bridges, railways and airports benefit everyone. There are no Republican roads or Democratic bridges.
The argument is usually over how and who pays for the projects.
Perhaps Emmer can round up his Minnesota colleagues to speak with one voice on other pressing issues that need action. Maybe this group could agree on climate-change legislation. How about affordable health care or immigration?
When legislators come out of their corners and peel off their labels, action results.
Let’s hear from all our representatives about how they’ve worked together to create solutions.