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Editorial: Rural residents led the way on roads, bridges

Roads and bridges. Bridges and roads.

No one disputes that Minnesota -- like many states -- has neglected funding these essential aspects of our public infrastructure for years. Then on Aug. 1, 2007, the hum-drum business of roads and bridges became paramount when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis.

No one should dispute, either, that town boards across Minnesota have focused on roads and bridges for generations. Indeed, road-and-bridge funds make up the largest portion of every township budget in Goodhue County. That's serious money that citizens decide to levy upon themselves each and every year.

Those township residents head to the polls Tuesday to elect supervisors and clerks as well as set annual levies. We can't emphasize enough that big-ticket items are bridges and roads -- specifically their maintenance and construction.

Critical transportation issues face all residents. The Minnesota Legislature's veto override last week and the subsequent gas tax hike won't solve everything.

We believe that township residents know this. It didn't take a bridge collapse for them to get the message. As innocuous as road, bridge, ambulance and fire levy funds sound, the truth is rural residents understand they can't neglect them. Perhaps that's because those funds have come directly out of their pockets for years. Perhaps that's because they can't take for granted the infrastructure that ensures their goods get to market. Perhaps it's because rural residents rely on one another and know they need to work together to get things done. They are the town board.

You can't get much more grass-roots government than at the township level.

We hope rural residents flock to the polls Tuesday and speak up at their annual meetings. What they quietly, effectively and systematically accomplish each and every spring should inspire their elected state lawmakers to do the same in St. Paul.