ST. PAUL, Minn. -- State lawmakers are looking to ease the pain for your tires and refill road repair budgets stretched thin by one of the worst winters in memory.
Two bills introduced in the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday would dedicate a total of $15 million to pothole repairs.
"Our worst winter in almost 40 years has resulted in significant damage and wear and tear to our roads," Rep. Frank Hornstein, the panel's chair, told his colleagues.
"It has led to many unanticipated expenditures at the state and federal level for potholes."
Hornstein's main transportation bill would put $10 million in one-time trunk highway money into pothole repairs in the state highway system.
Rep. Barb Yarusso of Shoreview offered a separate pothole fix bill targeted to local roadways in cities and counties, a measure that would spend $5 million in one-time General Fund dollars.
"It was like an amusement park ride trying to dodge the potholes," Rep. Yarusso said, recalling a recent trip down Rice St. in Saint Paul, in route to the State Capitol.
"Those of us who experience damage to our vehicles end up paying for it in a different way, in new tires, alignment and damage from chunks of pavement thrown into the air by other cars."
When the pothole repair budget's exhausted, cities don't stop filling them. They keep fixing them, and pay for it by putting off other scheduled road maintenance. And those delays come with an added price down the road.
"They need the tools and the funds to make sure they do their maintenance on schedule," Anne Finn of the League of Minnesota Cities told legislators.
"And we know that for every $1 spent on maintenance we save $7 in future repairs."
Some of those potholes will require multiple visits by repair crews, because the freeze and thaw cycle continues into the early spring.
"We can't do that hot mix that's really a permanent fix until it gets warmer, so a lot of the fixes we do right now don't last for very long," Abbey Bryduck of the Association of Minnesota Counties said, noting that a more lasting fix requires more extensive changes to the area around the hole.
If it's any indication of the type of season it's been out on the roads, the mere mention of the word "pothole" drew cameras from all of the Twin Cities television stations to the committee's meeting Wednesday.
The political upside of pothole repairs is not lost on the pundits. Even President Barack Obama, on his recent speech at St. Paul's Union Depot, raised the issue.
"Nobody knows better than Minnesotans, when we've gone through a winter like this, roads are wrecked, full of potholes all across the country."
Rep. Hornstein's bill would also devote $5 million to safety improvements for railroad crossings, many of which are experiencing more train traffic due to an increase in North Dakota crude oil shipments.
And in that respect those two sections of the bill are related. The asphalt mix needed to fill those holes in produced using petroleum.