Humphrey School News—January 26, 2015

Humphrey School Researchers Launch Database on Minnesota Transportation Spending

New tool to be "go-to" resource for public, lawmakers considering transportation funding

As Minnesota legislators consider a proposed $6 billion transportation improvement plan, they will likely rely on a wide range of data, much of which is compiled in a new online database created by researchers at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The Minnesota Transportation Finance Database is a first-of-its-kind resource that helps illustrate where money for Minnesota’s road projects comes from and how it is spent. The comprehensive database—which includes state and local funding figures gathered from a wide range of sources, in some cases dating back to 1980—is intended to be a “go-to” resource for lawmakers, the public, and businesses, helping them to understand Minnesota’s transportation finance issues and engage in decision-making processes.

The online resource includes data, maps, graphs, and analyses of such information as: 

  • Total dollars collected from taxes and tab fees for use on state highway projects 
  • Total dollars spent on transportation each year by counties, cities, townships, and the state 
  • The relative size of transportation spending as a share of the GDP in Minnesota 
  • Highway expenditures compared to all expenditures in Minnesota

“Economic development and a growing economy depend on transportation, and current funding sources, including gas tax revenues, are not keeping up with the cost of maintaining roads and highways,” says Adeel Lari, Humphrey School researcher and retired MnDOT director of innovative finance and research, who helped compile the data. 

Lari and other researchers use data from the site to analyze the impacts of transportation spending and to determine the effects of various public policies that help pay for projects.

One example of how this data can be used is a newly finished research study by Humphrey School Associate Professor Jerry Zhao, which compares the return on investment for projects to improve local roads and state trunk highways. “The numbers show that every dollar invested in local roads leads to a $1.25 increase in property values within a county. In contrast, every dollar invested in state trunk highways leads to a $0.87 increase in property values within a county, but has a 'spillover' benefit that increases property values in nearby counties by about two dollars. Considering both benefits, every dollar invested on a state a highway improvement leads to about $2.88 increase of regional property values. This information is critical as lawmakers design an effective map for transportation improvements and economic growth.”

The Minnesota Transportation Research Database was created as part of a multiple-year Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness project funded by the 2013 State Legislature and run by the Humphrey School and University’s Center for Transportation Studies. While data has been gathered on many related issues for individual past projects by many different sources, this is the first comprehensive effort to compile transportation data in one location for use by all stakeholders. Researchers plan to update and expand the database each year, possibly to include national data and trends as needed. 

Office of Communications

Humphrey School of Public Affairs
300G Humphrey School
301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455