Editorial: County Road 49 an example of crisis regarding road funding

Published 10:06 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2018

We’ve written regularly about the need for long-term transportation funding, and discussion at the Tuesday Freeborn County Board of Commissioners meeting shed light on why that is so critical.

Conversation at the meeting was a continuation of a meeting May 1, when the board voted 3-2 to pave a two-mile stretch of Freeborn County Road 49.

The piece of road in Mansfield Township intersects Freeborn County roads 2 and 4 and was paved for at least 25 years until the county turned it back to gravel a couple years ago due to lack of funding.

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A group of residents unhappy about the decision turned in a petition with more than 100 signatures in favor of paving the road, and in the end, the commissioners sided in favor of the residents’ request.

How the estimated $900,000 project is going to be paid for was not addressed — and after the Tuesday board meeting, the answer to that question is still unclear.

With the project already approved, should the commissioners now approve a tax levy increase to repair this road, or should a cut be made somewhere else in the county’s budget to accommodate the improvement?

Freeborn County Public Works Director Sue Miller has previously stated the county has a $5 million yearly funding deficit for roads, even after the passage of the wheelage tax and the sales tax.

With so many other higher-traveled roads needing to be repaired, how will the funding of this road take away from other projects in greater need?

These are questions that need to be considered.

We question raising the tax levy for this project and ask the commissioners to look at other alternatives.

In addition, we ask that our state leaders look at this and other examples as a need for a more sustainable, long-term statewide transportation funding source.

The problem is not going away any time soon.