Infrastructure

Infrastructure

 

Housing:

Affordable, decent housing is a necessity. Denial of this basic human need can produce poor results: Decreased productivity, failing family life, unemployment, homelessness, and poorer education.  Federally subsidized housing for low-income people is a necessity if we are to keep homelessness to a minimum.  Whether the assistance comes in the form of a voucher or direct payments to the landlord, being able to have decent living accommodations significantly increases positive life experiences.  Subsidized Co-operative housing is a good example of providing housing to those who require assistance.  It allows a group of people to have input into how the housing will be maintained and how it must appear.  This leads to cooperation between the tenants in order to keep the living spaces in good shape, it can help reduce crime, and it can assist the tenants in becoming more self-sufficient and hopefully eventually moving on to better opportunities.  Funding for affordable housing needs to continue.

 

Roads And Bridges:

There are over 13,000 highway bridges in Minnesota. 51 of the 336 in Fillmore County and 29 of the 160 in Houston County are structurally deficient.  The safety of everyone is at risk if this is not fixed.  Roads still provide the way for the majority of Minnesotans to travel. Upkeep of our roads, especially due to the frequently harsh winters and spring thaws, is of vital economic interest to everyone.  New bridges and roads are not often built; what needs to be a higher priority is maintenance and repair of existing structures.  The MN Constitution requires a certain amount of money go to the DOT.  However, with the number of bridges in the District, and in the State as a whole, that are structurally deficient, a small increase in the gasoline tax could be a significant boost to the funds available to fix those bridges.  We cannot have both things simultaneously -- no increase in taxes but increased funding for bridge and road repair.  If we expect our government to maintain and repair the roads and bridges that we depend on, then we are going to have to pony up the extra tax to accomplish those goals, otherwise money will have to be subtracted from other social programs, which no one really wants either.  One way or another, we’re going to have to pay to keep our roads and bridges safe.

 

Lighting:

Efficient lighting and lighting design schemes will decrease energy expenditure, lower costs, and will aid in the reduction of light pollution which will then increase the quality of living for all.  Switching from incandescent to CFL’s and now LED’s has delivered a great reduction in electricity use.  Besides simply changing from an inefficient design to considerably more efficient LED’s, there are other ways to reduce cost.  Differential lighting depending upon the area being illuminated:  A work table requires more direct lighting than does a hallway; time of day impact; proper selection of fixtures and lamp types to best foster energy conservation; automated and programmable lighting systems; using natural light, including Moser lamps in rural and hard-to-wire locations, and in developing countries; integration of lighting systems with building design and architecture choices;  training people to use electricity and lighting in an efficient manner.  Both indoor and outdoor lighting need to be concerned with the adverse health effects of light pollution.  Proper planning and training will help to eliminate needless cost and energy usage, and will enhance the appearance of the area being lit.

 

Public Transportation:

Public transportation, especially in large metropolitan areas, needs the support of the citizens and the legislature. This is a green investment and should be pursued accordingly.  There are many forms of public transportation:  City buses; trams/light-rail; commuter, intercity, and high-speed rail; subway; elevated train; and ferries.  Public transportation in the US uses half as much fuel than individual cars, and emits significantly fewer pollutants, e.g. CO2, CH4, CO, VOC’s, NOx’s, and SOx’s.  Public transportation lowers congestion on roads, making the existing surfaces more easily usable by the remaining vehicles.  It can increase land-use in urban areas where land is at a premium; it will enable cities to be built more compactly and thus more efficiently.  It has a strong social impact, as it allows people who can not afford a personal automobile to have freedom of travel; it also allows for interaction of all social classes, letting people meet each other that may otherwise not have; it also decreases, in the long-run, transportation costs for the public.  The light-rail line in the Twin Cities should definitely be pushed forward and we need to accept the Federal Government’s $900M injection of capital to get the project moving.

 

Traffic:

Vehicle traffic will be made more efficient with the continuing research and investment in automated cars and trucks; a dedicated lane or lanes for these vehicles will use existing infrastructure.  Public transportation options such as bus, subway, and light rail will also significantly reduce traffic and congestion.  Decreased pollution and decreased public cost are also positive impacts of funding options for public transportation.  Sitting in traffic is a large waste of a person’s time, increasing frustration and significantly increasing the amount of noxious gases emitted into the atmosphere.  Heavy traffic is not what anyone wants, so studies into how best to decrease traffic should be implemented, and the proper funding for the necessary public transportation modes needs to be included in the budget.

 

Funding:

If we want to make a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions caused by passenger vehicles, we need to put more funding into public transportation -- buses, tram, subways, and rail.  There is a large up-front cost for all types of public transportation, whether it is buying new buses or building subways tunnels or building rails.  The costs can be recovered in a variety of ways, through fares and buying tickets, leasing tunnel space, leasing land above subway lines, commercial sponsorship/advertising, government subsidies, and land development schemes.  Ultimately, public transportation is a positive vehicle for everyone involved, and should be promoted.

 

Water:

Our waterways are an important and vital part of this State. Rivers provide recreation opportunities, and transportation for goods. Our lakes are a part of our heritage which we must protect.  The inland waterways of the US include more than 25,000 miles of navigable waterways, with much of the commercially important waterways are part of the Mississippi River System.  Much of the infrastructure of the inland waterways were constructed fifty years ago and need modernization and enlargement in order to continue to provide the economic and environmental benefits that large-scale water traffic requires.  The US Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the maintenance of almost 12,000 miles of the inland and intra-coastal waterways, which includes 11,000 miles of fuel-taxed waterways.  That fuel tax supplies half of the money used for repair and new construction.  Enormous amounts of raw materials are transported on our waterways; maintenance and building of newer, better, more efficient locks and dams along with dredging of existing waterways must be made an important part of the increase in infrastructure spending.

 

Development:

When basic infrastructure begins to fail with no remediation, it leads to the eventual downfall of a civilization. With no roads, communications, power grid, water delivery, etc. society crumbles.  As the population increases, more money will need to be spent on initial building and then maintaining those investments so that society can continue to improve and flourish.  This will include everything from roads and bridges to broadband to pipelines, schools to public housing to water supply, energy to parks to ports and many more categories of services and facilities necessary for a given economy to function.  This will take a huge amount of money over the coming years, but if we want to continue to provide our citizens with the services that they require in order to live, work, and play, this needs to be a priority.

 

Broadband:

The world is becoming more digitally enabled; universal broadband access is becoming more and more obviously a necessity to function at full capacity, be it for work, school, or entertainment.  So much of our society is now connected through digital communications networks, whether they are wired or wireless.  Economical and available broadband services must be delivered to all of the citizens lest they fall behind those who have easy access to such services.  Rural inhabitants, low-income people, disabled, and elderly all should have an equal option to access electronic communications.  Broadband access is no longer a luxury that can only be afforded to those few who live in an urban environment and can pay for a high level of service; it has now become a necessity for students, employees, employers, and entertainment.  We must input a large amount of money into the wiring of America so that everyone has the opportunity to use electronic communications to improve their lives.

 

Transportation:

With approximately 200 million passenger vehicles on US roads, we need a combination of greener fuels, higher efficiency, and serious investigation of multi-passenger options such as buses and rail.  Transportation also includes other modes of moving people and goods from one place to another:  Air, rail,  and water.  Efficient use of transportation modalities is important for lowering the cost of movement, and for improved environmental protection.  Investment in public transportation, large-scale raw materials movement, and the facilities necessary to deal with those people and goods is absolutely necessary.  Without transportation, there is no modern world, only small bands of people trying to find resources to keep them alive.  Transportation efficiency is a field where more investment needs to be made so that all may benefit from a cleaner and less congested environment.