Highway-212 stuck in Minnesota deep freeze
By Peter Samuel
Minnesota Trunk Highway 212 (MN-212), a 23km $220m radial toll highway on the southwest fringe of the Minneapolis/St Paul area proposed by a non-profit 'community highway association' and the Interwest group (see TR#3, May 1996 p5) is in deep freeze. The town of Eden Prairie, one of four communities on MN-212's right of way voted it down early September and under existing state legislation this blocks the project.
But Adeel Lari, the state's director of alternative finance is not giving up. He told us: "Building any highway is very difficult and building a toll highway is even more difficult, so it is going to be a long journey and there will be a lot of problems along the way. We remain convinced that this is the way to go. We are committed to this. There are just not going to be any megaprojects without tolls."
Lari said the state will be working with legislators to develop a new approach to implement its pro-toll road policy and may seek changes in the legislation in the session starting January. He noted that the critics of MN-212 focussed on the lack of any longterm and regionwide highway plan for the twin cities region and had expressed the fear that they might be "the first and the last toll road" in the region, lumbered with paying tolls on top of high taxes.
This line of criticism was inadvertently given some weight after the state itself rejected further consideration of three other private sector highway proposals for the Minneapolis metro area in May (see TR#3, May 1996, p5). These included:
MN-610, the North Crosstown Parkway a $280m 26km tollway to run east-west 25km north of downtown Minneapolis (I-94 to I-35W)
two major river crossing enhancements and adjacent expressway widenings on I-494 worth some $450m
The three state-aborted projects were proposed by Hughes, the electronics subsidiary of GM. State officials appeared to think opposition to the Hughes projects might grow, and that prudence suggested starting with MN-212 alone. A Hughes spokesman told us at the time the state exaggerated the opposition and said he was disappointed and that the company had never really been given a chance to put the case to the public for their 3 projects before they were turned down.
MN-212 which started with the most local support was then weakened by being the only toll project left. Which suggests perhaps that undue political caution can be a mistake. (Contact: Adeel Lari, MnDOT 612 296 8483)