Roads & Bridges
Roads and Bridges Funding

The state trunk highway system is funded predominantly through the State Trunk Highway Fund, with its revenues coming from both state taxes and federal aid. Counties rely heavily on funding from state tax revenues (through the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund). Local property taxes are a significant revenue source for county, city, and township transportation needs.

Most state trunk highway transportation revenue is generated from motor fuel, vehicle registration, and vehicle sales taxes[1].

Critical Initiatives

Safety initiatives are commonly included under the umbrella of the state’s “Toward Zero Death” program. Initiatives such as rumble strips, cable median barriers and intersection lighting have become more widely used to improve safety along state highways. Within the Twin Cities metropolitan area, safety issues are often addressed though congestion relief initiatives.

Preservation initiatives will continue to be the major focus of state and local government as their primary stewardship role is to adequately address all the present and future needs of the road and bridge infrastructure.

Management initiatives are commonly viewed as a means by which state and local government “wring every last bit of efficiency and capacity out of existing infrastructure. Examples of such initiatives include managed lanes, ramp metering and bus shoulders. The management initiative is an important aspect of overall service to the public.

Expansion initiatives are critical to the economic health of Minnesota. Improving the efficiency of movement for both people and goods within and between regions is at the forefront of today’s political discussions.

Predictability initiatives primarily involve information transfer. At the state level, “dial 511” is a program that informs motorists of congestion in metropolitan areas. Radio programming now includes “traffic updates” and website updates including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube advise the public on driving conditions. ITS overhead signs showing travel times have been installed to assist drivers, and speed harmonization technologies have been implemented to further assist in making more efficient highway systems.


Through the continued efforts of the state and local governments, the overall transportation system remains one of the best in the country. Unfortunately, the efforts have been unable to keep up with the growth in travel by the public and commerce. As a result, the overall condition of the system is trending worse. However, not all attributes identified above are trending worse. Read More…

What can people expect if an adequate level of funding is not maintained?

Everyone acknowledges that adequate funding is not available to finance the road and bridge needs across the state as state and local road authorities struggle to balance preservation, safety, mobility and expansion. As the economy recovers, the number of miles driven on the system will increase and congestion within the state’s metropolitan areas will trend up. This problem will be experienced at the local level, too. In greater Minnesota, counties are already considering the impacts of allowing paved roads to return to gravel because they do not have the resources needed to maintain the paved surfaces. This condition will become more prevalent in the future. Other conditions we will observe as the infrastructure ages without attention include more telecommuting, more car pooling, more managed lanes and the expansion of transit.

Roads and Bridges Overivew

Minnesota has one of the largest road systems in the country, primarily because of its extensive system of rural roads. Jurisdiction for building and maintaining this system is shared by the state of Minnesota and various local units of government, including counties, cities, and townships. The roads and bridges under the state’s jurisdiction are referred to as the “state trunk highway system.” The state trunk highway system includes interstate highways and urban freeways as well as many other major routes in the state.

Minnesota has over 135,000 miles of roads and 19,000 bridges and culverts. About 90 percent of the roads and 77 percent of the bridges and culverts are owned and operated by local governments. Most of the system is geographically located outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Although most of Minnesota’s road miles, bridges, and culverts are owned and maintained by local governments, the state trunk highway system carries close to 60 percent of the state’s traffic.

Use of the state trunk highway system has been growing. Between 1998 and 2006, traffic on the state trunk highway system increased by about 13 percent, rising from 81.3 million miles traveled per day to 91.7 million miles per day. Heavy commercial vehicle traffic increased by nearly 20 percent, from 6.2 million miles per day to 7.5 million miles per day. Traffic grew more in counties surrounding the Twin Cities metropolitan area and counties to the north[1].

The quality of life of Minnesotans is defined by a number of factors, not the least of which is transportation. The effects that roads and bridges have on our quality of life are:

INDIVIDUAL – Mobility and independence. People value their independence and the introduction of the motor vehicle has defined the independence we have enjoyed for generations. Roads and bridges have improved accessibility and mobility throughout the country to even those of modest means.

BUSINESS – Economic competitiveness. The construction of roads and bridges has paved the way for our agricultural and commercial/industrial products to get to international markets. Our state now competes locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. As businesses profit through accessibility, their profits find their way to other businesses, which in turn create new jobs that produce more goods for the people of the state.

[1] Evaluation Report State Highways and Bridges | Office of the Legislative Auditor, State of Minnesota