ST. PAUL -- Two items in Senate Minority Leader Dick Day's ''Freedom To Drive'' agenda buzzed through a committee Wednesday, keeping alive his bid to shut off ramp meters and cite drivers who tie up the left lane of traffic.
''Two out of three isn't bad. We're moving in the right direction,'' the Owatonna Republican said after what colleagues jokingly called ''Dick Day Day'' in the Senate Transportation Committee.
His only defeat came on a bill to raise the speed limit on a stretch of Interstate 35E in the metro area. The committee voted 9 to 4 to keep the limit at 45 mph, a rate set as part of a federal court decree that allowed the freeway to run through St. Paul.
Two other bills -- to open carpool lanes to all traffic and to use half of the vehicle sales tax proceeds for license tab fee cuts and road construction -- were not considered, but went to the Senate Transportation Budget Division. The other two bills that passed also will go to that committee.
Day assembled a panel of experts to promote his package, showed videos and recited from newspaper articles. A cadre of Day supporters packed the room and wore bright yellow buttons promoting the Web site, FreedomToDriveMN.com.
''What Senator Day is presenting to us today is the world as we would like it to be,'' said Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon.
None of Day's proposals are new. Some have been passed before in committee or in the full Senate only to die before reaching the governor's desk. He insists the climate is more receptive to his ideas this session.
''What I have put together is a package that deals with transportation in its entirety,'' Day said. ''Some people have tried to deal with parts of it.''
For years, Day has been fighting to shut off the more than 400 ramp meters that regulate traffic entering metropolitan freeways. He said it is the only way to test whether they are effective.
Day's bill would shut off the lights in October and require an outside consultant to study whether it makes a difference. The Department of Transportation objects to the ramp-meter holiday.
Gary Workman, a MnDOT official who handles traffic control on Twin Cities freeways, said the meters compensate for increasing traffic on interstates that haven't grown at the same rate.
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