Funding for road facilities, the U.S. Highway 212 and taxation of volunteer driver programs were among the topics of discussion last week when two county council members and a department manager left their regular hours for business at Washington, DC
“Part of it is keeping your face in front of them,” said Joe Nagel, board member. “You have to show up and be there and be part of the process. “
He was joined on the Minnesota Transportation Alliance Fly-In by Director of Public Works John Brunkhorst and Board Member Nathan Schmalz. The alliance includes cities, counties, organizations, and businesses from across Minnesota. The fly-in gives them a chance to speak directly with Department of Transportation staff and meet with lawmakers and their aides.
Local issues raised included the needs of the Hutchinson Area Transportation Facility, which houses city, county and state services on the south side of Hutchinson. The county road workshop in Glencoe was also discussed. When the county built the Government Center in Glencoe, it sold its other local properties to reduce overhead costs and make it easier for residents to find services. County Road Services have the facilities they need right now, but the question arises as to what will happen in the future.
“We have the option of deciding whether it makes sense to keep doing something small or to collaborate with state and city, like HATS,” Nagel said.
Either way, federal funding could play a role. The same goes for local roads that need to be improved.
“I had a pleasant conversation with Representative (Michelle) Fischbach’s staff regarding Highway 22 between Hutchinson and Glencoe,” Nagel said. “It’s a trade corridor… but if you don’t put it on their shelf, they won’t know.” I think it was a valuable conversation.
He also spoke with Representative (Tom) Emmer.
“He doesn’t represent our district, but he’s definitely a powerful person there,” Nagel said.
The fly-in differed from previous years in that it was more “intense”. Alliance members were escorted wherever they went instead of having the freedom to roam the halls. Sometimes they were asked to be somewhere at a certain time and then they had to wait for someone to pick them up. Despite the changes, Nagel said he still thought his Tuesday-Thursday trip was worth it.
“After a year without face-to-face meetings, you can put faces with names,” he said.
While there was a plan in place to complete four-lane subway construction in McLeod County, US Highway 212 was still on the agenda. A $ 10 million RAISE grant would help offset local expenses, and officials in western Minnesota are still pushing for improvements statewide.
Rural broadband was also frequently mentioned by advocates. They also heard from staff who said charging stations were a priority for the Biden administration.
“I’m not sure it makes sense when we need to fix roads and bridges,” Nagel said.