Friday, June 25, 2010

Small Towns & Crumbling Roads: Reality via Westbrook

I wrote a bit the other week about my trip to the small Southwestern Minnesota town of Westbrook. While it is a small town, Westbrook isn't just a wide spot in the road. It has a recognizable downtown, a number of active businesses, and a hospital -- all hallmarks of a place that should have some staying power. Of course, there were also a number of closed businesses and vacant homes and hints that the population is rapidly aging.

It also has some pretty bad city streets . . . although, give the state of the streets and even the highways here in the metro area (Anyone else out there live in fear of the monster pothole at the base of the Lexington ramp onto I-94 East? The one you need swing around while merging into traffic or risk breaking an axle?), I can't say I really noticed the state of Westbrook's streets. I'm more likely to notice really good pavement these days because it is so often a rare find.

Conrad deFiebre of Minnesota 2020 just published a piece on roadway needs, using Westbrook as an example. It tells a bit of two stories - the difficulty funding the cost to maintain the investment we have made in our infrastructure (since everything said about roads is true of our water and sewer systems, parks, schools, and so on) and realities of governance when people will not or cannot pay for the services they need.

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