Duluth Mayor Emily Larson on Tuesday proposed a one-half-percent transportation sales tax to fund street upgrades. A “Street Improvement Program” (SIP) would be created to manage the work.

“I hear from people every day, several times a day, about the poor condition of our streets and their ongoing frustration. I want you to know, I hear you loud and clear. That’s why I’m proposing a 0.5 percent  sales tax to be solely dedicated to fixing our streets and sidewalks. Now is our time, and we must act. The traditional funding sources we relied on have diminished. Now it’s up to us. Together, we can transform our city and take pride in our streets once again,” Larson said in a prepared statement.  

The proposal could annually generate about $7 million, tripling the current level of dedicated funding to $10 million. Duluth has 450 miles of roads and more than 400 miles of sidewalks. With current funding, Duluth can recondition fewer than 2 miles of road per year. An industry standard pavement rating system places the majority of Duluth streets at a 36 rating, on a scale of 1 being the worst and 100 being the best. The preferred rating for a healthy street system is 70.

The proposal will be listed as a referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot and would then need legislative approval prior to implementation.  

“It’s no secret that our city roads are in terrible shape. I support this dedicated revenue source, and look forward to carrying a bill next legislative session to enact this change. I’m proud of our community for embracing this long term sustainable solution,” said State Sen. Erik Simonson.

The public can ask questions and voice comments at three upcoming public meetings:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 16 – Harrison Community Center, 3002 W. Third St., 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 20 – Morgan Park Community Center, 1242 88th Ave W., 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 26 – Duluth Heights Community Center, 33 W. Mulberry St., 5:30-7 p.m.

Information can be found at www.duluthmn.gov/better-streets. The site also contains a comment form.