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Guest Editorial: A bipartisan first step toward better roads

According to the latest American Society of Civil Engineers report card, Minnesota's infrastructure gets an overall grade of "C." Its bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, transit and wastewater categories all receive varying versions of a "C" grade and the state's roads are graded at "D-plus." And just with its roads, Minnesota has billions of dollars of backlogged projects.

North Dakota also received a C grade.

Sure, it's a passing grade but it's nothing to cheer about, since without effort — in this case, a great influx of dollars dedicated to making massive renovations and upgrades — that grade only will slide downward.

According to the ASCE, North Dakota roads have the best grade — a "B-minus." Drinking water, wastewater, transit, energy and levees all get varying grades of "C" and the state's bridges and dams get grades of "D-plus" and "D," respectively.

Only considering bridges, the state has a backlog of more than $400 million of necessary projects, according to the ASCE.

Nationally, the United States gets a "D-plus" grade from the ASCE.

So residents of these states should be pleased after top Democrats and President Trump declared progress on a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal that came during a rare display of bipartisanship in Washington. The news came Tuesday, after Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer discussed the proposal to build and fix roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure projects.

There's still one problem and it's a big one. The political sides don't have a unified idea for funding, and that could be the downfall of what we see as a productive meeting. For instance, Democrats apparently favor erasing the Republican tax cuts that Trump pushed in 2017. That's an unlikely path; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that it's "a nonstarter."

Still, we see the meeting as progress because of its apparently friendly tone, along with its effort to address a monster of a problem growing in the United States. The U.S. needs to spend approximately $4.5 trillion to improve the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure, according to the ASCE. And that's just what should happen by 2025, according to the agency. More needs will arise after that.

Americans must get their minds right about infrastructure and the associated costs that loom

In Minnesota, for instance, a 20-cent-per-gallon increase to the gas tax is on the table — the Minnesota House approved the idea last week and it now depends on the Senate.

Gas taxes — which generally have not been raised at the state or federal level for years — are just one way to pay for to make roads and bridges safe. It's not a popular idea, however.

Another way is through various federal tax increases, which likely will be a path favored by Democrats but not the GOP.

But infrastructure dollars are needed, because the U.S. has not adequately invested in its infrastructure for years.

Tuesday's meeting was a refreshing first step to turning America's attention back to the nation's glaring infrastructure needs.