HUGO — Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) joined members of the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday, July 1, at Hugo City Hall for a question-and-answer session on legislative priorities.
Questions covered a range of state, regional and local issues, but primarily focused on tax revenue, transportation and infrastructure. Thanks to the transportation funding bill passed by the state Legislature in 2017, Chamberlain said, “There's a lot of money out there for roads and bridges. The number we have for total infrastructure, transportation spending is about $8 billion over the next few years. So, it's significant money.”
Chamberlain also voiced concern about the Rush Line Rapid Transit Project, a proposed 14-mile transit route that would run from downtown White Bear Lake to downtown St. Paul.
“We need good public transportation in the northeast (metro) here but putting a stupid ramp and bus stop in the middle of downtown White Bear Lake is the most insane idea I've ever heard of. It's contemporary modern thinking: let's take a pearl and a gem of the metro area and let's destroy it with 90 buses a day, and all that stuff spewing out,” he said. “With all this space out here, we need to be served, but jamming something like that (in downtown White Bear Lake) is just insanity.”
Several questions were asked about additional revenue for commercial rail. Chamberlain acknowledged the importance of rail, particularly throughout Minnesota history, but said that he could not guarantee that funding could be secured within the next legislative session.
“It's certainly something that can be looked at, but I'm just going to be honest: I'm not going to promise that I'm going to go out there and support $50 (million) to $100 million to hand out to large rail companies to repair their tracks,” he said. “It's an important part of our infrastructure, but we have to make choices, right? Bike paths or rail lines? Rail lines or roads?...There are limits of what we can do and what the priorities are.”