Alex Goldmark

Alex Goldmark appears in the following:

Minn. Lawmaker Defends Earmarks, Vows to Save Light Rail Funds

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

(St. Paul -- Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio) While Republicans are set to formalize a non-binding pledge banning earmarks, not every legislator thinks it's good policy. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), defended congressional earmarks today, saying limits have been put in place and that the money spent on them represents only a small part of the overall federal budget.

Republican House leaders called for a moratorium on the earmark process, which allows members of Congress to fund specific projects in their states or districts. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has said he also supports a ban on earmarks.

But McCollum said she's concerned about the $45 million earmark pending before the House for Minnesota's Central Corridor light rail project. She said the project is worthwhile and will create thousands of jobs.

"[Earmarks are] one half of one percent of the entire federal budget," McCollum told MPR's Morning Edition. "This is for local communities. I'm a big supporter of local control, especially when it comes to spending some of our tax dollars."

McCollum said she is working with the Obama administration to save Central Corridor from Republican cuts.

While the light rail project is a priority, McCollum said there are other earmarks she's supported in past years, such as money for the Harriet Tubman crisis centers in the Twin Cities.

"That's a community project that the community came together and said, 'Would you help us fund this,'" she said.

Listen to the full interview with McCollum at MPR.

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What The Rail?!?!

Friday, November 12, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) In response to our series on the future of transportation, we got an email pointing us to "tubular rail." ????????

In this vision for an alternative train type, there is no track. Stanchions, 100 feet apart, house rollers that propel the train as it passes.  The train doesn't fall even as it's nose is suspended unsupported in the same way that a pencil on the edge of a tabletop won't begin to tip and fall until more than half of it is dangling past the precipice.

The website for Tubular Rail Inc. explains how the proposed plan would work, and answers many questions about top speed, power sources, emergency evacuation and braking.

Engineers?  Responses?

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Turning Your Bike Into A Paintbrush, and Other Ways To Create Community

Friday, November 12, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Can design be used to encourage bike riding? Pepin Gelardi and Teresa Herrmann, both designers, think so. The number one reason people don't ride, they tell GOOD Magazine, is because people feel outnumbered by cars and don't feel safe. So they created Contrail to visually show the bounty of bikes around town, to convey a sense of a cycling community and get people thinking they, too, can ride around their city.

Contrail turns bikes into (non-permanent) paintbrushes. Cyclists strap the device to the frame and the real wheel powers a pump that drips a stream of colorful chalking fluid along behind, trailing a bright line.

Image: Contrail

It's still in the prototype phase, so it's unclear if it would be adopted in any large number enough to achieve the designers' goal of conveying community through a city-wide cross hatch of colored strips and swirls.

Some bike advocates, however, are already big fans. The designers are encouraging them to imagine Contrail as a tool to draw attention to their cause of building cycle-friendly cities.

There is evidence this kind of tool would be adopted by activists. To advocate for a new bike lane, the artist collective Länsiväylä in Helsinki, Finland poured water-based paint on the street and had cyclists ride through it, trailing the colors along what the group hoped would become the new bike lane.

Flickr user Länsiväylä: Pyöräilykaista2010

Contrail designers also point out it would facilitate group rides of all stripes, from neighborhood tours to anything else, because the trails would make it easy to follow the leader/tour guide even if you lose sight. On their website, they say it can also facilitate fundraising, or just fun, as an artsy addition to city riding. They don't mention critical mass rallies, but it's easy to see how the cycling stalwarts behind the monthly ride to "reclaim" the streets would want to mark their territory, especially because there is no announced route ahead of time.

Watch a video of how Contrail works.

Contrail by Ulicu LLC from Teresa Herrmann on Vimeo.

The project is still a prototype in the fundraising phase with more details and a request for financial support at their Kickstarter page.

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SERIES: How Viable is High Speed Rail in California

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The proposed California rail plan, courtesy of the California High Speed Rail Authority

If high-speed rail is going to happen anywhere on a bigger scale than the current Northeast Acela service, it's going to be in California. In 2008, voters approved a $10 billion bond measure to fund a train that can zip people from L.A. to San Francisco in just two-and-a-half hours.

But the train would also be noisy, and to some residents, and unwanted eyesore. Palo Alto and two other cities are suing the state to stop California's plan. It's by no means a sure thing.  KALW's Casey Miner examines the real prospects of the biggest rail project in the country. Listen to the full story here on Marketplace.

And you can see the whole Marketplace series on the Future of Transportation here.

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Feds to NJ Transit: You Owe Us $271 Million for ARC Work. NJT: Not So Fast

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Monday, the Federal Transit Administration sent this letter to NJ Transit requesting immediate repayment of $271 million in federal money spent on preliminary work for the ARC tunnel project killed by Governor Chris Christie on October 27th.

The federal government had obligated $350 million already for the initial phase of planning and construction. Of that, New Jersey has spent just over $271 million and the feds want it back. NJ Transit, for its part, is saying not so fast. Their response is below the FTA letter.

ARC Repayment Letter

NJ Transit issued Transportation Nation this response:

"NJ TRANSIT received the FTA request for repayment on November 8, 2010.  At this time, we are reviewing the request, and are assessing our options.  NJ TRANSIT does not agree that the issues are as clear cut as portrayed in the FTA letter."

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Wisconsin Governor Doyle Explains Why He's Shut Down Rail Project He Supports

Monday, November 08, 2010

Last week Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, an adamant rail supporter,  suddenly stopped all work on his state's high speed rail projects. He did it because Governor-elect Scott Walker has said he plans to kill the $800+ million dollar project citing cost concerns.

Here's Governor Doyle's explanation for shutting down the rail projects he fought so hard for. It's as bittersweet as you can get in a press release.   (Double click on the image and you should be able to see it full size)

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SERIES: The Future of Transportation

Monday, November 08, 2010

Image: Amtrak

We’re changing how we move, and that’s changing how we live and work. Transportation Nation partner, Marketplace, is exploring the Future of Transportation this week. We'll collect the stories in this post as they air. Check your local station to find out when the show is on in your area.

A quick hint of what's to come: 200 mile per hour trains will steal business from airlines, cars will talk to each other and traffic, well, there will still be traffic--but there’s innovation there too.

WEDNESDAY: What are the real prospects of high-speed rail in California? In 2008, voters approved a $10 billion bond measure to fund a train that can zip people from L.A. to San Francisco in just two-and-a-half hours. A rail trip faster, safer than driving and, well, we'll wait and see on the price. But the train would also be noisy, and to some residents, and unwanted eyesore. Palo Alto and two other cities are suing the state to stop California's plan. It's by no means a sure thing.  So what are the real chances and real obstacles to the nation's bigger rail project underway right now? (Listen to the full story here)

WEDNESDAY: Could high-speed rail kill short hop flights? Last month, the U.S. government pledged another $2.5 billion for high speed rail. That money will go toward building train lines between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Chicago and Detroit–the kind of short trip a business traveler right now takes to the skies for. So what will happen to airlines when trains will get us to a place almost as fast?(Listen to the story here)

TUESDAY:  Are fast buses the ticket? Buses have a bad rap, but done right, experts say, they can be as fast as subways, more pleasant, and WAY, way cheaper.  A look at Cleveland's healthline, and why Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Portland are paying attention.  (Listen to the full story).

TUESDAY: Leading the electric charge in Houston

Houston, Tex., is usually better known as a capital of Big Oil. But things may be changing, as the nation's fourth largest city is also trying position itself as a leader in electric cars. (Listen to the full story)

MONDAY: Intelligent Cars

It's tempting to daydream -- as you're fighting traffic to and from work every day -- of a time when cars will drive themselves. When all you'll have to do is climb in, sip your coffee and read the headlines on your iPad -- whatever's going to take its place. Google did make big news last month sending four driver-less vans down the Pacific Coast Highway.

But as exciting -- or perhaps scary -- as it might be to think about life with a robotic chauffeur, that reality is way, way down the road, so to speak. Soon enough, though, cars will be equipped to help us drive better and safer.  The Department of Transportation is funding research to build "intelligent" cars that can warn you of potential accidents and suggest less-congested routes.   (Listen to the full story)

MONDAY: Congestion Pricing

This is a given:  Transportation is vital to our economy. But what happens when fuel taxes are lost to more efficient cars and better mass transit? In the first of a series on the "Future of Transportation," Cathy Duchamp looks at one alternative to the gas tax, something called congestion pricing. As cars get more fuel efficient, and transit becomes a better option, the amount of gasoline tax the government collects gets smaller and smaller. Congestion pricing might the answer, even on highways.  (Listen to the full story)

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Cuomo: I'll Take Transit Money Other New Governors Are Giving Up

Friday, November 05, 2010


In one of his first actions as New York's governor-elect, Andrew Cuomo is looking to bring home more money for high-speed rail projects around the state.


NY Gov-Elect Wants HSR Money Other New Govs are Giving Up

Friday, November 05, 2010

In one of his first acts as Governor-Elect, Andrew Cuomo says wants high speed rail money other governors are giving up.  As a candidate, Cuomo's transportation plans were only given in outline, but if he follows through on aggressively pursuing federal funding for transportation projects, things could get interesting -- Transportation Nation

Here's the release:

Press Release from the office of Governor-elect of NY Andrew Cuomo.


Governors-Elect in Ohio and Wisconsin Have Promised to Cancel Major Federally Funded Rail Projects in their Home States

Action Would Free Up $1.26 Billion in Stimulus Funding for High-Speed Rail Projects

New York Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo today sent a personal letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking that if Governors-Elect in Ohio and Wisconsin move forward with campaign promises to cancel major federally funded high-speed rail projects in their states, he redirect the $1.26 billion in stimulus funding already dedicated to those projects to New York.

“High speed rail is critical to building the foundation for future economic growth, especially Upstate. If these Governors-Elect follow through on their promises to cancel these projects, a Cuomo Administration would move quickly to put the billions in rejected stimulus funding towards projects that would create thousands of good jobs for New Yorkers.

Below is a copy of the Governor-Elect’s letter to Secretary LaHood:

November 5, 2010

Hon. Ray LaHood


U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave., SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

High speed rail could be transformative for New York—with the potential to revitalize Upstate New York’s economy with construction jobs now and permanent jobs created by the new high speed rail links to New York City, Toronto and Montreal in the future. That is why I made high speed rail a priority during my campaign, and that is why it will continue to be a top priority for me as Governor.

To date, New York has received only a small fraction of federal money for high speed rail, but we want to make it a success now, and my Administration will aggressively pursue all funding opportunities to make high speed rail a reality.  Recent reports have stated that incoming Administrations in other states, particularly Ohio and Wisconsin, are seeking to cancel their high speed rail projects and the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid associated with those projects.  Therefore, I would ask you to consider redirecting the federal funding to New York because the project is a top priority.

High speed rail could be the 21st Century Erie Canal for New York State and help rebuild Upstate New York’s economy. Now is the moment to build. Thank you for the consideration and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate and call.

Best wishes,

Andrew M. Cuomo


# # #

Here's the DOT response to our follow-up on this Cuomo's requst:

"We recognize that there is an incredible demand for high-speed rail dollars around the country. The Obama administration’s high-speed rail program will create jobs, spur economic development and provide people with cleaner, greener alternatives to driving and flying."

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Wisconsin Halts Construction of High Speed Rail Project after Anti-Rail Candidate Wins Office

Friday, November 05, 2010

Rendering of Milwaukee's proposed intermodal station.

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Contractors in Wisconsin received a one line email telling them to stop work on high-speed rail construction. This came after rail-opponent, Republican Scott Walker won the governorship on Tuesday. But it was sitting governor and rail-supporter Jim Doyle's administration that made the call to halt progress now.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation issued the orders saying the stoppage is "just for a few days," though  the Journal-Sentinel is reporting that some contractors have already initiated some layoffs as a result. Sadly, that may be the point. DOT Chief Frank Busalacchi said in a written statement this is "to assess the real-world consequences, including the immediate impacts to people and their livelihoods, if this project were to be stopped." Already, a locally-based but foreign-owned train maker Talgo Inc. has said it might not stay in the area if the project is scrapped.

Governor-elect Walker  has been an adamant opponent of the project even though construction would be 100 percent funded by federal dollars. The operating costs would fall on the State to pay. He doubts there is sufficient demand for the service and says Wisconsin just can't afford it.

The official DOT site for Wisconsin's Milwaukee to Madison HSR project.

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Average Fuel Spending Drops, but We Still Use a Lot of It

Thursday, November 04, 2010

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Drivers across the country spent a lower percentage of their income on gasoline in 2009 than in 2008, according to an analysis out today from the Natural Resources Defense Council. That shouldn't be a surprise, considering the spike in oil prices in 2008.

But there are still several states where gas purchases eat up more than five percent of household income on average. And NRDC says that in two states--Mississippi and Montana--gasoline consumption accounted for more than six percent. In Montana the average household spent $2,066.58 on gas in 2009, the nation's highest dollar figure. Typical Mississippians spent $1,910.75 but led the nation in terms of income percentage spent on gasoline. Chalk up the difference to low mean incomes in Mississippi, which ranks among the poorest states in the nation.

Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky round out the list of states where gas consumption took up more than 5% of average household income in 2009. Meanwhile the higher-income states of the Northeast were at the bottom of the list. Drivers in New York spent a national low of $1,229.16 on gas, though Connecticut had the lowest household income share at just 2.56%.

You won't be surprised to read that NRDC, a leading environmental group takes these results as a clarion call for less dependence on fossil fuels. The group points out that only three states--California, Massachusetts, and Oregon--have their own low-carbon fuel standards. The twelve states with renewable fuel standards are primarily those with functioning ethanol industries. Only 19 states have growth management, or "smart growth" laws designed to manage transportation and land use in growing suburbs, according to NRDC.

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Breakdown: What Election Results Mean for Alternative Transportation

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Democrats lost big on Tuesday, and it was only a tad better for alternative transportation. The fate of several high speed rail plans around the country are now in question as ...

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Scorecard: What Election 2010 Means for Transportation around the Nation

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Democrats lost big on Tuesday, and it was only a tad better for alternative transportation. The fate of several high speed rail plans around the country are now in question as new governors take over and Republicans take over in Congress with a mandate to cut spending. (See TranportPolitic for more on that.)

From races where transit or transportation became an issue, to marquis ballot measures for new initiatives, here's our scorecard of election 2010 in Transportation Nation:

The race: 8th Congressional District, Minnesota -- Jim Oberstar Loses. The Incumbent Democrat, Chair of House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, loses to Repub. Chip Cravaack by 4,200 votes.

A champion of transportation leaves Congress. Rep. Oberstar has been in office since 1974 and was a strong advocate for transportation spending throughout. Even if he had won, he would have lost his chairmanship of the Transportation Committee when Republicans take control of the House. Still, his loss was unexpected.

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Oberstar Stands Firm on Record in Transportation-Filled Farewell Speech

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) Chair of the  House Transportation Committee was unseated Tuesday. He has served Minnesota since 1974, an he sure had a lot to say about his transportation tenure. Below is the full audio of his emotional, proud, and of course, transportation-filled farewell speech.

"In the business world when the profits of sales go down, the CEO says, well it was sales, or marketing ... in this arena you look into the mirror and say, it was me. But there is nothing I would take back. "

About 6:25 into his remarks, Oberstar starts to list off all the work he is proud of, and it reads like the list of roads, bridges, tunnels and infrastructure that cover Minnesota.

"I can't change, and I wouldn't change any of the votes I cast this year to bring us out of the worst recession, to chart a course for the future ... I wouldn't change any of the votes I cast to bring forward the stimulus. Because the bridge over Interstate 35 at North Branch will be there long after I leave office, and long after any successor. That's a 100 year bridge. And the bridge at County Road 17 over I-35 ... that will be there long after..."

As for what this transportation legislator will do next, he says he will reflect for a while and look for something "in the public arena."

Download the full audio as broadcast by MPR.

Read more at MPR.

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GM IPO Details Emerge

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) General Motors post-bailout, post-bankruptcy IPO is expected to raise between $8-$13 billion and transform the U.S. government's role from majority owner to minority shareholder.  But the federal government would still be the largest owner.

GM is expected to file a final registration for the IPO on Wednesday, the same day they release quarterly earnings (and are expected to announce they are profitable for the third straight quarter). That's when we'll officially know how much they are trying to raise, as well as the exact share price. Some hints have already leaked out, though, and early reports are that shares will likely be priced at $26 to $29--considerably higher than earlier estimates. And at that price, AP estimates the total company valuation will be around $46 billion, which is similar to Ford.

During the bailout, U.S. taxpayers ponied up $50 billion to save the company and has so far gotten about $10 billion back. GM will use the money from the IPO to pay off debt, not raise operating capital. Initially, GM will only be offering a portion of their shares. The rest will come in subsequent offerings at a higher price, GM and the U.S. Government are hoping.

According to multiple reports, GM executives will now begin meeting with major investors --like foreign-based sovereign wealth funds, including those based in Kuwait and China.

For a breakdown of likely ownership stakes see the Detroit Bureau.

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Transit and Transportation at Stake in Several Key Races

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) We've been closely watching the intersection of transportation and politics on this site.  Here are a few races where transportation may affect the outcome, or where the outcome may affect transportation.

The race: Maryland Governor -- Repub. Bob Ehrlich,  Dem. Martin O’Malley

What's at stake: It's a race of rail vs bus. The two candidates each support extending some form of public transit to the area of Maryland in the Washington D.C. suburbs. O'Malley wants the proposed Purple Line while Erlich prefers a bus plan. Maryland is a deep blue state, so Ehrlich's chances aren't great. But O'Malley isn't hugely popular and this is not a good year for Democrats nationwide, so an upset is always possible and the Purple Line hangs in the balance. (Read more.)

The race: 8th Congressional District, Minnesota -- Incumbent Dem. Jim Oberstar, Chair of House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Repub. Chip Cravaack

What's at stake: Congressional control. Oberstar is currently the Chair of the Congressional transportation committee. He's in charge of the purse strings on countless transportation and infrastructure projects around the nation. He's called for a massive transportation funding package that would be less likely to pass without a champion at the helm of transportation committee. Even if Oberstar holds on in this tighter-than-expected race, he may lose his chairmanship if Republicans take control of the House.   The ranking member of the House Transportation Committee is Republican John Mica of Florida, who, like Oberstar, has been a champion of increased transportation funding and high speed rail.  In fact, Mica and Oberstar have joined to assail the Obama administration for not making transportation spending a higher priority.

"I view this as the most critical jobs bill before Congress ... we're going to do it together, one way or another, come hell or high water," Mica said in 2009 of the transportation bill.  But it's unclear how Mica would hew to this agenda with a much more conservative, less spending-friendly congress. (Read more from MPR)

The race: Ohio Governor -- Incumbent Dem. Ted Strickland, Repub. John Kasich

What's at stake: High speed rail spending. Kasich has proposed repurposing the

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Jersey Barrier Art to Spruce up NYC

Monday, November 01, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The New York City Department of Transportation announced their Jersey Barrier Design Winners Monday.

Jersey barrier art by Jennifer Cecere, Jenny Hung, and Debra Hampton will adorn the ubiquitous eyesores around NYC construction zones with brightly colored patterns and representational designs. The winning entries vary in style from geometric patterns, to bright bird feather hints striped lengthwise, and subtle human forms hidden in complex symmetrical flowing red and white line paintings. See some small samples here.

For a sense of past projects with similar sensibilities, click through this photo set by NY DOT "pARTners". Downtown New York has done this in the past, and we hope they do it more often. It's a smart move to transform the constant construction sites inherent in infrastructure upgrades into a canvas for local expression. It might also earn a little more support for the projects too. Once these jersey barriers are covered in art instead of car soot, people might not dislike them as much. Even a little improvement would be nice.

Check out other efforts to inject art into transportation spaces by the NY DOT laid out in this little pdf they released on how they select sites and art projects.

Image (CC) of unpainted barriers by Flickr user takomabibelot.

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In Maryland, Vote for Governor is Vote Between Rail and Bus Rapid Transit Along Proposed "Purple Line"

Monday, November 01, 2010

(Matt Bush, WAMU) In the DC metro area transit has become a key issue for many voters in the Maryland governor's race. Specifically, candidate support or opposition for a proposed extension of DC area Metro known as the Purple Line is likely to decide the votes of many in the DC suburbs.

Republican former Gov. Bob Ehrlich wants the Purple Line to be rapid buses, saying it is cheaper and more likely to receive federal funding. Incumbent Democrat Gov. Martin O'Malley wants light rail, saying, among other reasons, it is more attractive to potential businesses looking to locate in the D.C. suburbs.

That stance helped O'Malley receive the endorsement of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "We're at capacity on certain lines already on Metrorail. When you look at buses, they fill up pretty quickly, they don't move as many people, and they don't move them as fast," says Jim Dinegar, the board's president.

A Maryland Transit Administration study also termed light rail better for the environment. But the World Resources Institute in D.C. did its own study, which says rapid buses are better. The institute's Greg Fuhs says they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

"The primary reason being the energy source for light rail, the region covered by the Purple Line system, is heavily coal dependent," Fuhs says.

Fuhs adds many buses now run on cleaner fuels than gas and get better gas mileage. Either way, depending on what plan they support, local residents are heading to the polls knowing the man who wins the governor's race will decide between rail or bus. And that's worth voting on.

Proposed Purple Line Map

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Minnesota Gov Candidates Agree: More Buses, No Gas Tax, But Disagree on How to Get It Done

Monday, November 01, 2010

(St. Paul, Minn --Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio) The candidates vying to replace Minnesota governor, and potential Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, appear to agree on major transportation issues: They all oppose a gas tax increase, they favor more borrowing and they support bus transit. But dig a little deeper and the three diverge on the details of all those issues. (Listen to this story at MPR.)

Republican Tom Emmer, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner and Democrat Mark Dayton all agree this is not the time to raise Minnesota's gasoline tax.

Beyond that however, Emmer sounds a familiar campaign theme. He says money for transportation will come as the state does more to encourage business growth. "That's the way you solve it, you don't keep raising the tax and driving away the business, let's grow the business so we collect more of the revenue," Emmer said.

State transportation officials estimate Minnesota is short about a billion dollars or more a year in keeping up with road and bridge needs. That puts a spotlight on another major revenue source, borrowing.

The Pawlenty administration has relied heavily on borrowing to fund road and bridge projects. The three gubernatorial candidates agree borrowing is an important revenue source.

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Snapshots of the American Commute

Friday, October 29, 2010

Our partner The Takeaway asked for your snapshots and sounds from your daily commute. They got some striking photos, some cluttered traffic and a healthy dose of personality.

See the full slideshow here.

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