Most of the pundits on local TV shouldn’t be on TV. Former state senator Don Betzold is one of those pundits. While criticizing Michele Bachmann for not supporting expansion of the North Star Corridor to St. Cloud, he insisted that extending the corridor would solve I-94’s congestion problems. He hinted that expanding I-94 wasn’t a priority.

That last part parrots a line from MnDOT Spokesman Kevin Gutknecht:

But Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said the I-94 widening doesn’t rank high on the agency’s long-term list of priority projects. “There are projects like this all across the state — really good projects, really important projects, projects that have tremendous support like this,” he said. “It all really boils down to the funding piece.”

Anyone that thinks fixing I-94’s congestion problems isn’t an important problem worthy of solution isn’t qualified for a MnDOT job. Either that or he’s a political hack attempting to undercut a sitting US congressperson.

But I digress.

Betzold’s commentary suggested that expanding North Star was a solution. It isn’t. In fact, it’s a death trap that should be avoided at all costs. In addition to the construction costs, the taxpayers’ subsidies that help bring the cost to riders down total tens of millions of dollars over the next decade. Without those subsidies, the cost per rider would be wildly expensive.

Then there’s the consideration that people don’t like transit that much. The DFL frequently insists that transit is the wave of the future. It isn’t. Americans love the freedom of driving. We love being in control of our lives. That includes the ability to go where we want to go when we want to go there. Transit doesn’t give us that option.

What transit lacks in mobility, it makes up for in subsidies. We shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing private industries. If they can’t make it without subsidies, that’s proof they aren’t viable. A key economic principle is that if something isn’t sustainable, it can’t be sustained indefinitely. I’d take that a step further. If something can’t be sustained, it’s likely heading for a quick collapse.

The only thing as painful as listening to Betzold was hearing Tom Hauser call the I-94 project an earmark. Earmarks typically are dropped into a conference committee report in the dead of night. They don’t go through the scrutiny of a committee mark-up. The I-94 project Michele Bachmann proposed went through the committee process. It was done in the light of day. Most importantly, the I-94 project isn’t pork designed mostly to prove she’s ‘bringing home the bacon.’ The I-94 project Michele proposed is actually a solution to a major problem.

Contrary to what Mssrs. Gutknecht and Betzold said, anyone who’s been trapped at the bottlenecks where I-94, 694 and 494 connect knows that that’s been a major problem for a generation. Anyone who’s tried getting on I-94 near Bass Lake Road or Highway 101 knows that those have been problem areas for a decade.

If that isn’t worthy of prioritizing, then nothing is. Mr. Hauser is usually a pretty good reporter. This time, though, he slipped.

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3 Responses to “TV stations need better pundits”

  • walter hanson says:


    I’ll add another part to your “Go to where we want” line. One reason why mass transit as setup for me doesn’t work is that the MTC has two bus lines for me that I could try to use to get to my office. One will drop me off right at the office site, but I will have to walk about fifteen minutes to get to a spot to catch that bus. The second one I can catch by walking one block to catch, but then will have to walk about fifteen minutes after I get off because it won’t take me close to my office.

    When part of my work grade is being at work on time that is something you can’t afford to take into account for trying to catch a bus (Oh by the way sometimes they are late)

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

  • Speed Gibson says:

    The question never even asked is, OK, so you take the train to St. Cloud. Now what? You have no car to take you to the mall, SCSU, etc., bus options being very limited, taxis obviously expensive, and then there’s the weather.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Rex, it’s all about chanting their mantra, then not getting questioned about how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

    A real journalist would ask that tough follow-up question.

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