Posted: 11/16/14 02:13, Edited: 11/16/14 02:14
by Dave Mindeman
I grew up on a farm in southeastern North Dakota. A real rural area. Middle of nowhere really. My brother and his family still live on the homestead. He never gave up on life in the wide open spaces.
When I go to visit, I head out on Interstate 94 all the way to Breckenridge, Minnesota. Then I take a 4 lane county road west for about 10 miles and hook up with Interstate 29 heading north. I take an exit that indicates I am near Galchutt, North Dakota....although you won't see it from the interchange and if you did drive the 3 or 4 miles to get to it, you might not recognize it as a town.
But I head west on that county road - 2 lane highway now - for about another 8 miles. As I get close to the farm the pavement stops. And the last 3 miles changes to a narrow gravel road with the dust and kicked up stones that go with it.
I imagine many Twin Citians have never even driven on a gravel road. It is a pretty unique rural activity and farmers navigate them all the time..going to and from their fields.
That gravel road has been there for a long, long time. It kinda gets maintained by a local with a grader. Paid by the county. Not much I would imagine. And it is a pretty tough job in the winter.
For years my brother has been waiting for that road to get paved. A lot of the cross connecting points have been....but this particular road still holds out for old school.
Probably hard for the county to justify paving it. There are only about 10 or 12 farms along that stretch between county roads. And there isn't much indication that those numbers are going to grow any time soon.
So...if you are a small government person....who wants to prioritize....that road is probably going to stay gravel for the foreseeable future.
That is one of the reasons that I remain skeptical that the new Minnesota GOP House is going to follow through on rewarding greater Minnesota after that region gave them the political wins to take back majority control.
Transportation is a big deal in rural America. It is the connection they have to the outside world. There aren't any big city snowplows out there when a blizzard hits. Those farmsteads aren't a high priority for road clearing when the weather demands action.
Small government wants efficiency and small government puts 10 farms on a gravel road as a low priority project that can wait...and wait...and wait.
Small government and budget cuts are not friendly to rural America. They don't have the population numbers to make demands and the money needed to invest in rural areas is pretty hefty to justify that need.
So what happens? The MN GOP House needs to reward greater Minnesota for the faith placed in them. Roads and bridges? Yes. High priority? Yes. But it would seem that it needs to be done without taxes or new revenue. At least that is what they keep telling us.
So what does that mean? Well, I hate to tell the suburbs this, but that means you suburbanites can kiss those transit projects goodbye. Bus Rapid Transit....Light Rail....increased bus services....or even that massive interchange fix that has been needed for years...yeah, all that stuff is going to disappear - in a cloud of gravel dust and asphalt.
Now, I do not begrudge the needs of greater Minnesota. There is a lot of work to do out there. But the idea that the small government, prioritizing Republicans are going to satisfy the huge transportation needs of a growing and vital Minnesota economy is...well....difficult to fathom.
Frankly, I think any real success on that has about as much chance as that gravel road in rural North Dakota has of getting paved.