MnDOT commissioner making the rounds

MnDOT Commish. in Town

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AUSTIN, Minn. — All summer, MnDOT’s commissioner has been traveling around the state to talk transportation.

Topics range anywhere from past improvements to the future and what citizens see happening there.

Thursday’s trip involved a stop in Austin.

Those in Austin have a grand plan to get people to stop in town instead of just driving by on the interstate

“Create a landscaping theme to improve on the landscaping on I-90, because right now there’s no visual appeal there,” said John Gray with Austin’s Vision 2020.

When it comes to improving an area bridge, they want it to be more than just concrete.

“Looking long-term as to when the bridges are going to be replaced or taking existing bridges and maybe improve on the attractiveness of the bridges,” Gray said.

Those are just some of the ideas commissioner Charles Zelle is hearing as he travels across the state. He is meeting with chambers of commerce, elected officials and listening to citizens.

“This is more than just building transportation roads and bridges, it’s about how do we make it both aesthetic and support the qualities about Minnesota that our citizens most admire and most want,” Zelle said.

He said they are finding out what the vision is over the next 20 years for the state.

“How do we create a great sense of community, incorporate art, allow great health through pedestrian and bicycle interconnections and yes, provide access for our businesses,” Zelle said.

He said that may involve a gas tax or an incremental increase in registration fees.

“We want to make sure we’re prudent and MnDOT especially, is smart about what we’re investing in, make sure it’s a high return on investment. In other words, we don’t want to squander taxpayer funding, but we also want to be competitive with other states and other regions,” Zelle said.

He also met with leaders at Hormel food in Austin before stopping in Rochester for a town hall style meeting with area residents.

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