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Archive for the ‘infrastructure’ Category

 

Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District Congressman Tim Walz drove to the end of the world district today (a few minutes more and he would have been in South Dakota)  for a listening session about the economic stimulus package recently passed the the U.S. House of Representatives. One of several throughout the 1st district over the last couple of days, the event in Luverne was well attended. walz-luverne-jan-30-09-aLocal elected officials, school administrators, business people from the private sector, ag interests, social workers, organized labor and concerned citizens were there to hear what the congressman had to say and to ask questions and share their concerns.

Congressman Walz was straightforward about the seriousness of the

Congressman Walz making a point.

Congressman Walz making a point.

economic crisis we face as a nation as well as the pros and cons of the stimulus package. He would have preferred more infrastructure spending (as do I) but also touted the fact that the transparency measures are unprecedented. The congressman and his staff received valuable input on projects from the assembled crowd and will use that information to pass on to state government officials who will eventually receive the stimulus money and be tasked with its distribution. They will also use the information gathered today in Luverne and from previous listening sessions to help shape the final look of the stimulus package. The Senate will deal with the legislation next and eventually the two legislative bodies will have to reach an agreement on the final package. Representative Walz  says this will all be done by February 15 but there is still time for citizen input.  A Bluestem Prairie has a summary of the plan posted here.

I continue to be impressed with the Congressman’s willingness and eagerness to constantly get out and meet with the people he represents. There may be more voters  in Rochester and Mankato but he also came to Luverne because he sincerely wants to represent all the people of the 1st District.

walz-luverne-jan-30-09-b

 

Oh, just one more thing. My youngest of five grandchildren, at 11 months, had his first face to face meeting with a congressman. It was a proud moment.

what-do-you-mean-ive-got-to-pay-for-this-mess

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Since it is the 18th of January I figured it was about time to change my superhighway.jpgChristmas header image. The economic stimulus plans floating around have included the need for increased investment in our infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The new header image is from an old slide from my father’s archives when I-90 was being built near Beaver Creek in the early 60’s.  In a previous post I stressed the need for investment in our transportation infrastructure and hopefully with the Obama administration we will get back on track.superhighway-before-its-super.jpg

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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death trap alley

“Pray for me, I drive Highway 60”.

That is the slogan of the Southwest Minnesota Highway 60 Action Corporation that was organized in 1960. The groups purpose back then, as it is today, was to promote the improvement of Minnesota TH 60. They are still praying and waiting 48 years later. Last Thursday, July 24, 380 people gathered in Windom to share their experiences about traveling on Highway 60 and to urge Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) officials to complete the 4-lane expansion.

MNDOT Commissioner Thomas K. Sorel got an earful as about 25 of the 380 in attendance were able to speak over the course of the two and a half hour meeting. Worthington Daily Globe reporter Julie Buntjer covered the event and led her story with this:

One by one they walked to the microphone, sat down and shared their death-defying experiences on a stretch of Minnesota 60 that not once, not twice, but three times changes from two-lane to four-lane traffic between Windom and St. James.  

From an aunt, friend and cousin who shared their stories of 28-year-old Jamie Torkelson, killed in a head-on collision on the highway on May 6, 2005, to retired school bus drivers, business people, truck drivers and city and county leaders — they pleaded with newly-appointed transportation commissioner Thomas Sorel and MnDOT officials to find the money to complete the four-lane expansion.

The Cottonwood County Citizen also covered the event: Highway 60 meeting attracts 380 to Windom Community Center.

Two area lawmakers and state transportation commissioner Thomas Sorel left Windom with a stronger sense of Highway 60’s flaws and the public’s resolve after last night’s meeting at the Windom Community Center.More than 380 people were on hand, several of them were there specifically to provide testimony on the dangers of the controversial highway. One after another, residents testified about cases where motorists became confused by the highway’s mixture of two-lane and four-lane stretches. Most stories ended with someone in the wrong lane and a “near miss,” injuries, or a fatality.

 

The room fell dead silent following two different stories regarding close calls involving school buses full of students.

 

Lawmakers, such as Sen. Jim Vickerman and Rep. Rod Hamilton expressed frustration that MnDOT leaders have failed to comply with a bill the state’s lawmakers approved this past spring - a bill that requires all of Highway 60 to be completed. Read the rest here.  

 

 

Rahn Larson, editor of the Cottonwood County Citizen, questions the power and decision making of the officials at MNDOT in his editorial: MnDot vs. lawmakers?  Larson asks:

Can a state agency simply refuse to enact an order passed by the Minnesota Legislature?

He then goes on to list a number of facts that proves the intent of the legislature to finish Highway 60 and then has this to say:

OK, so the bill was approved and the legislative intent was confirmed and even stressed to MnDOT leaders at least twice. So the real question is this: “Who is calling the shots for Minnesota - the legislature, or department heads for the various departments?

 

State Senator Jim Vickerman (DFL) and Representative Rod Hamilton (GOP) were both at this meeting in Windom but missing in action was Representative Doug Magnus (GOP). Of course it was probably a wise decision on his part to stay away from such a large gathering since he supported Governor Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation legislation. Fortunately the legislature was able to overide that veto.

In the coming week we will probably find out if Governor Pawlenty will be chosen as McCain’s running mate. He will probably bring along his veto pen. We will also remember the collapse of the I35W bridge. Our infrasturcture needs our obvious and urgent and we could use some real leadership on this issue. Unfortunately we have not received that from the Governor or Representative Magnus.

The Worthington Daily Globe has this compelling audio of Hillary Mathis speaking of her cousin’s tragic death on Highway 60.

(click the arrow)

 

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

 

 

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No, I am not talking about the Warner Bros. movie Speed Racer, but the speed of your Internet connection. The Communications Workers of America is conducting an internet speed test and is collecting the data for a report they will present to the FCC. Information obtained from a previous test was helpful in getting the FCC to change its definition of ‘high speed’ The CWA has set up a website called SpeedMatters.org where it outlines 5 key principles;

  • Speed and Universality Matter for Internet Access
  • The U.S. “High Speed” Definition is Too Slow
  • A National High Speed Internet for All Policy is Critical
  • The U.S. Must Preserve an Open Internet
  • Consumer and Worker Protections Must Be Safeguarded

 Check out the site where you can see a state by state comparison of Internet speeds.

Take the test! Click on the picture below.

 

I am fortunate to be in an area that does better than most of the State of Minnesota but we as a state and nation lag behind the rest of the industrialized world.

 

Peace & solidarity

CHC

 

 

       

 

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antique-windmill-effect.jpg Well, the wind is blowing right now at 30 mph and it is annoying and cold. Hopefully the wind farms are online and generating electricity. One of the problems with the establishing a wind farm is being able to sell the electricity generated and to get it from the wind turbine to the consumer. This takes transmission lines and that is why we see the construction going on now in Southwestern Minnesota. Xcel Energy has this to say about their Southwest Minnesota Transmission Project:

     In the case of Southwestern Minnesota, improved transmission lines are needed to support the area’s growing electricity generation industry — to get the area’s newest “crop to market.” Currently there are about 450 wind turbines along the Buffalo Ridge in Southwestern Minnesota, representing nearly 300 megawatts of generation capacity. And there’s the potential to more than double the current wind power output from this region over the next 10 years. However, the power lines carrying this electricity were designed and built decades ago and are at their limit. Xcel Energy will be investing over $160 million in transmission improvements to support the development of additional wind power and other electric generation in Southwestern Minnesota.

Another problem associated with “farming the wind” is that sometimes the wind doesn’t blow. Xcel recently announced that it will test storing the energy in batteries. TwinCities.Com reports Xcel to use massive batteries to store wind-generated power:

The problem with electricity generated from wind turbines is, the power can fluctuate. Xcel Energy says it’s got a way to even out the flow — an 80-ton battery the size of two semi-trailers.

The Minneapolis-based utility said Thursday that it will begin testing a sodium-sulfur battery being used in Japan to even out the flow of electricity between windy days and nonwindy days.

Xcel plans to put 20 50-kilowatt batteries in Luverne, Minn., about 30 miles east of Sioux Falls, S.D., this spring and connect them to an 11-megawatt wind farm owned by Minwind Energy. The batteries are expected to go online in October.

When the wind is blowing, the batteries will charge, and when the wind diminishes, the batteries — which can discharge one megawatt of power — will supplement the flow of electricity to Xcel.  Read the rest here.

I guess we will have to wait and see how well that works. I do wonder how you dispose of an 80 ton battery or does it just keep on going and going and going.

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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minwind-bc.jpg 

Minnesota’s 1st CD Congressman Tim Walz(D) has been working hard in Washington D.C. on energy issues and recently issued a press release about the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008, H.R. 5351. Ollie Ox over at Bluestem Prairie covers it in detail here.

Minnesota Central looks at the tax and job creation implications in his post: Vote 51: Minnesota Jobs at stake while Congress chooses whose Tax Break to Extend.

Meanwhile, here in SW Minnesota local folks are working hard to prove that renewable and alternative energy is real and viable. Wind turbines are popping up and generating electricity and income due to a cooperative effort among local farmers and community members. Minwind LLC of Luverne, with over 300 members, has 11 turbines and plans to build more. Many of these people were instrumental in building the ethanol plant in Luverne owned by AgriEnergy LLC. The November/December 2007 issue of Rural Cooperatives published by the USDA highlights the Minwind project. New transmission lines are currently being constructed along I-90, creating good paying jobs.

 Here is a short (37 sec.) slide show

 

and since the title of this post is a Dylan tune here is a video of him performing in 1963. Enjoy!

 

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Area newspapers are reporting positive reaction to the passage of the transportation bill. In Rep. Seifert’s hometown, Rae Kruger of the Marshall Independent reports that county commissioners are pleased that money will be available for county and township roads. Lyon County commissioner Bob Fenske had this to say:

Fenske takes issue with opponents, including legislators, who say a gas tax will not generate that much money in general, and so it won’t do much for rural counties.“It is a significant amount that will come to the county,” Fenske said.

The Worthington Daily Globe headline: Reaction to transpostation bill is positive. Nobles County engineer had a few comments and here is an excerpt:

Schnieder said now that a transportation package has been completed, every township in Nobles County will get money as a result.

“It goes a long way to hold down property taxes for township boards,” he said. “They’re experiencing the same things we are — increased costs for fuel and construction, bridge replacements (and maintenance).”

The Daily globe also opines about the tactics the Minnesota GOP is using on the members of their party who voted in favor of addressing our infrastructure needs. In Party Presure Pressures, the dilemma facing Rep. Rod Hamilton(R) is discussed. Here is the last paragraph from the Daily Globe editorial:

It should trouble all of us when parties attempt to hold elected officials hostage, thereby making it increasingly difficult for them to do the job they’re supposed to be doing — serving the people who elected them. Why do we elect representatives in the first place, then?


Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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