Guest blogger Sean Hayford O’Leary: The Sidewalks That Weren’t – Northfield’s 10 worst

cedar-smallAs I’ve mentioned on Northfield Nonmotorized, Northfield is in the process of making full sidewalk coverage the standard. In the last few years, they’ve consistently added sidewalks during street reconstructions — many on both sides. All new roads within the last fifteen years (save for a few rogue culs de sac) have sidewalks. However, there are definitely some areas that are missing this essential piece of a safe roadway. Note that these roadways are not limited to city-maintained streets or the city limits. This is about Northfield-area problems, and I do note when an entity other than the City of Northfield is responsible. (continued)

10. Greenvale Avenue and North Spring Street

Greenvale Avenue -- Image by Google Street View

This is only #10 because it actually no longer is missing a sidewalk. The City installed a sidewalk along the north side of Greenvale Avenue when the road was reconstructed in 2003 and along North Spring Street in 2008. Why do I mention it? Because it’s shocking to think that for more than 40 years, two busy residential collector streets less than half a mile from a school had no sidewalks whatsoever. While only one side of each street received a sidewalk, the sidewalks function well and, outside the downtown, Greenvale’s is one of the most heavily used sidewalks I see. Both of these are City-maintained streets.

9. Spring Creek Road

Image by Bing Maps
This could be a poster for problematic suburban design. The 1980s Mayflower Hill development has sidewalk coverage. It’s not terribly far from the downtown. And yet Spring Creek Road — which for years was the only access road — is extremely narrow and has no sidewalks. It makes the neighborhood isolated from the surrounding community, and essentially treats walking as a novelty — not any serious form of transportation. Spring Creek Road is the responsibility of the City of Northfield.

8. Hester Street and Dundas Boulevard (Rice County 78)

Dundas Blvd and Hester Streets -- Image by Bing Maps

The first of several roads problematic because of multiple authorities. Dundas Blvd (which becomes Armstrong Road in Northfield) is a beautiful road, and a portion of it is adjacent to the Mill Towns Trail. However, development at its intersection with Hester Street creates a need for sidewalks. The pedestrian-friendly downtown Dundas is literally a short block away from those developments, but one has to walk along Dundas Blvd and down a steep, narrow hill on Hester Street to get there. Neither one has sidewalk coverage. The City of Dundas and Rice County are responsible for these streets.

7. Nevada/9th/Maple Streets

Nevada, 9th, and Maple Streets

Nevada/9th/Maple (which essentially form one north-south street) are an important access from the area south of Woodley to downtown, as well as a common route to Sibley School. It’s an old road: the 600 block, for example, does not even have curb and gutter. Newer and more recently improved portions of the road do have sidewalk coverage (full coverage near Jefferson Parkway), but there’s a clear need to bring the rest of the street up to that standard. The City of Northfield is responsible for these streets.

6. Lockwood Drive/North Linden Street

Intersection of Lockwood Drive and North Linden Street

Another example of a residential street built in the post-WWII anti-sidewalk craze. Lockwood Drive has partial (east side) sidewalk coverage north of the county line, but no coverage in Rice County. It is helpful that a shared-use path cuts through to Greenvale Elementary, but to access that path (or to go into town or elsewhere) requires kids to walk on the street for some distance. The City of Northfield is responsible for these streets.

5. South Highway 3

Clinton Lane and South Highway 3

This one can’t be blamed on distant history. The road was reconstructed in the mid-90s (you can see Google Earth imagery of the road in 1991), but sidewalks were included only from Woodley Street to Jefferson Parkway. The only sidewalk south of that point — a shared-use path — runs on only one side, from Roosevelt Ridge Road to Heritage Drive. Well it used to run to Heritage Drive. Since the Community Bank building was built, the path was removed and never restored. It now dead-ends at the Life 21 church.

Granted, the road reconstruction occurred before Target/Cub and Heritage Square were built, but it’s still appalling that in a widening and reconstruction of a road like this that no accommodations were made for nonmotorized users. The road should have either a shared-use path or sidewalk on both sides, at the very least until Roosevelt Ridge Rd (Rice County 1), but preferably until East Hester Street or Cannon City Boulevard/East Street. The only reason I did not rank this higher on the list is that Jefferson Road provides a suitable alternate route with much better access for pedestrians and cyclists. The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Cities of Northfield and Dundas are responsible.

4. West Fifth Street (Minnesota 19)

Fifth Street and Armstrong Road

I know almost nothing about the history of West Fifth Street, though it has been improved somewhat in recent years. Currently there are sidewalks along the north side of the street from Highway 3 to South Orchard Street and, on the south side, from Highway 3 to the western edge of the Malt-O-Meal Campbell Mill. There are odd shared-use paths that run from Armstrong Road to just east of Walden Place, but they run right up against the curb, are in absolutely terrible condition, and have no connection to Northfield’s sidewalk network. In the daylight, you can walk on them, but walking at night, you’re almost guaranteed to trip or roll and ankle in one of the many cracks or potholes. The Hwy 3/19 Multimodal study shows a “future” sidewalk along Fifth Street, but it’s unclear if that is being included in the grant application or if it’s simply a statement that, someday, it might make sense to have sidewalks there. And yes, it certainly would make sense.

3. Roosevelt Ridge Rd/110th St E (Rice County 1)

110th Street and Jefferson Road

I grew up near Roosevelt Ridge Rd, so this one is a bit personal. When I was eight or nine, I remember that I used to be able to walk down the side of the road to the Corner Mart in Dundas. There would be a few cars, sure, but it was a pleasant enough walk. Today the road carries about 3,950 cars a day (2008) — up from 1600 in 2001 — and is the exclusive access for several hundred homes. The road is also extremely narrow (11′ travel lanes) and has no paved shoulders, making it extremely uncomfortable for bicycling (I speak from extensive experience bicycling on this road).

Rice County, Bridgewater Township, and the Cities of Dundas and Northfield are responsible. Dundas deserves the strong scolding: they allowed developer D. R. Horton to build hundreds of homes in Bridgewater Heights (which uses Roosevelt Ridge Rd as its only road in or out) in the mid-2000s on the promise that they would build a shared use path as a part of “phase two.” Since they have yet to sell all of the homes of phase one, D. R. Horton’s shared-use path is looking pretty distant. Northfield is also responsible for increased traffic as a result of Target/Cub, the new Middle School, and developments in southeastern Northfield.

Ideally, I’d like to see the entire road from Highway 3 to Hall Avenue (S. Spring Creek Road) upgraded to an urban design with sidewalks on both sides. That’s a pipe dream. More realistic would be shared-use paths on both sides from Highway 3 to Dennison Blvd/Division Street (MN 246), which would be compatible with the existing speeds and would only require minor regrading.

2. Woodley Street

West Woodley Street

Woodley Street is the second-busiest low-speed street (after Jefferson Parkway), but between South Highway 3 and South Prairie Street, there is no consistent sidewalk coverage. (Sidewalks were added to the portion east of Prairie this summer.) The sidewalks that are there (for a few blocks either direction from the Division Street intersection) are patchy and unkept, old thin 12×12 tiles that are more dirt than concrete at this point. The fact that the road is so busy makes the situation worse: people, kids especially, often will not bother to cross the street to walk on the correct side. East Woodley Street is a Rice County road; West Woodley is part of Minnesota 246.

1. Cedar Avenue (Rice 43/Dakota 23)

Cedar Avenue

I believe Cedar Avenue — officially Falk and Eveleth Avenue — is the worst sidewalk omission for several reasons:

  • It’s adjacent to St. Olaf and forms part of a road beltway around campus, popular for joggers.
  • It’s adjacent to residential neighborhoods along Greenvale Ave, North Ave, Thye Parkway, and Lincoln Street.
  • The road barely wide enough for two cars. The shoulders are narrow and unpaved.
  • The speed limit is 30 mph around the most dangerous portion of the road (a 90-degree curve with limited visibility), but coming from the north, it goes very rapidly down from 50 mph, leaving many cars well above 30 in the 30-zone.

Unfortunately, it’s probably one of the problematic ones to deal with. This road affects two counties, one city, and two townships (Bridgewater and Greenvale). Ordinarily the townships would not pay toward county roads, however somebody would have to cough up for sidewalks on the Rice County portion, because the county certainly won’t.

Questions to Consider for Discussion

  • Do you agree with the rankings? What’s missing?
  • Northfield has virtually never installed a sidewalk except under a complete reconstruction (there are exceptions — like N. Spring Street — but few). Is this an adequate approach? Do some of these warrant faster action?

(Thanks to Bill Ostrem for that picture of Cedar, displaying the aesthetic mess of the road — another result of multiple authorities not working together. The Greenvale Avenue picture is from Google Street view, and the others are from Bing Maps.)

A note about the rankings: these are all fairly rough, though lacking pedestrian counts, it would be difficult to do it scientifically. Generally, I ranked them higher if they were A. close to schools, B. narrow on the road itself, C. busy/higher-speed, D. an exclusive way to get to or from a certain place, or E. already used by pedestrians.

39 thoughts on “Guest blogger Sean Hayford O’Leary: The Sidewalks That Weren’t – Northfield’s 10 worst”

  1. Sean: Just after I came to town 20 years ago the City had plans to put in a sidewalk on Woodley. The costs were in the millions. I don’t think there was the public will to get it done given the costs, homeowner complaints, and the engineering problems.

    It seems to me that the only practical approach is to build sidewalks out from pedestrian destinations. At this time, I would suggest that the nodes be the schools and downtown.

    When we tried to mandate sidewalks about 12 years ago, the referendum failed by a vote of 4-1 or so. I would guess that the vast majority of citizens were prefer to spend the money otherwise.

  2. Sean,

    A very thoughtful post – thanks for the effort. In regards to Woodley, Cedar, and other major routes, I think these all need to be re-examined and planned for better access. Over the years I have heard of the need for a good “ring road” to serve the outer areas, this being Jefferson Parkway primarily, however, for a vital community we really need to focus on the spokes.


  3. well done Sean. a few of these have been pet peeves of mine as well. David I agree that we cannot afford to just start putting in sidewalks everywhere and we should focus efforts around schools and downtown. I’m amazed that the residential neighborhoods around our grade schools do not have sidewalks. We won’t bus these kids and we expect them to dodge traffic in the streets. when I walked my daughter to Greenvale we walked in people’s yards rather than the street.

    I would suggest that new construction be required to install sidewalks where necessary and we retrofit as needed and as a budget allows.

  4. Within the ‘reign’ of the previous council, one of the longest and most repetitively argumentative discussions was around the issue of sidewalks around the streets bordering Greenvale school.
    Their needs to be an adhered to policy,so that there is not always the perception of personal interest or influence.
    Sidewalks are for everyone, not just the people whose houses they front.

    Great post, Sean; Thanks.

  5. In regards to Spring Creek Road (#9)…somebody can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the deal with that is after the Mayflower designed was developed the initial thought was to close that road and have it redone as a walking path only (or at least the stretch between Woodley and the cemetery). If you go down the road you’ll see it doesn’t even have curbs for the backyards of people’s property that comes up to the road and when I asked about it the above is the explanation I got.

    Obviously plans changed and I don’t know why.

  6. When we tried to mandate sidewalks about 12 years ago, the referendum failed by a vote of 4-1 or so. I would guess that the vast majority of citizens were prefer to spend the money otherwise.

    David, can you say more about what that referendum was? My impression is that the inclusion of full sidewalk coverage for all new local streets in the current draft LDC is basically without controversy. Did this referendum include retrofitting existing streets (without waiting for reconstruction)?

    On your last sentence, every time I see the suggestion that sidewalks are wasteful road spending, I can’t help but think what about curb and gutter? While it’s very helpful on streets with sidewalks, it’s not at all necessary — in residential areas — on streets without them. Ditches would be much cheaper and would promote better infiltration. How can we justify spending millions on tidily draining our run-off when we can’t spending on making our streets navigable and safe for pedestrians?


    I would suggest that new construction be required to install sidewalks where necessary and we retrofit as needed and as a budget allows.

    I agree, though I think “where necessary” would be anywhere where a pedestrian-dominated environment cannot be established. A short, dead-end street or cul de sac is potentially a place that does not need sidewalk, because the car has to follow the standard (slow-moving, quick-responding) of the pedestrians or cyclists. None of these ten are that type of street — all places where the car rules, and where pedestrian safety and comfort is secondary.

  7. Sean – Thanks for your article. I’m glad you mentioned in #7, that curb and gutter are not necessary. I hope that idea is considered in future development where it is appropriate.

    By the way – we have 2 brand new culs du sac (cul de sacs?) here on West First Street, not that the street has been closed in favor of connecting the park segments. I’m glad that sidewalks were grandfathered in and replaced as part of the infrastructure project. There are 16 or so houses in the block I live on, and in addition to ours, there will be park related traffic. Sidewalks will improve safety for walkers like me and my dog. A reasonable trade off for a gutterless street!

  8. Sean: I don’t remember much about the vote except that it failed miserably. Public sentiment was that people did not want to have a sidewalk in front of their house. Not only does it cut down on yard space, but it has to be shoveled in the wintertime.

    Snow removal is a huge problem for the elderly. If the snow removal is on a public highway, the cost to the taxing authority can be substantial.

    1. Snow removal is a huge problem for the elderly.

      Well, if I had to pick, I’d rather have sidewalks covered in snow than no sidewalk at all. Honestly, though, there are opportunities created by the need to groom walks — certainly active part-time jobs for enterprising pre/teens.

      If the snow removal is on a public highway, the cost to the taxing authority can be substantial.

      Pedestrian on Highway 3 South I took this picture last Friday of a man walking on the shoulder on Highway 3, between Heritage and Honeylocust. That shoulder — which can be used for bikes, but is mainly intended for incidental, emergency vehicle use — will be plowed. Nobody’s questioning that use of public money.

    2. David- I agree with your comment, “Snow removal is a huge problem for the elderly.” Where there are no sidewalks, it is even more dangerous for any mobility impared pedestrian. Not only is there no sidewalk, the person must walk on the roadway which is often times narrower than normal because of snow piled along the curb. As Sean said, a snowcovered sidewalk is better than no sidealk at all, IMO.

    3. Sean: “… opportunities created by the need to groom walks”? What homeowner, especially one on a fixed income, is excited to hire someone to shovel the walk? What about the costs to a landowner on Highway 3 or the costs to the City?

    4. David, I’m not saying it’s something to be “excited” about, but it’s a pretty minor cost in the scale of home ownership and maintenance (and for most people, able enough to handle it themselves, it isn’t a cost at all).

      Regarding Highway 3, the City already plows the walks along Highway 3 (until they end at Jefferson Parkway). See here. I’m not convinced that businesses further south would be significantly burdened, if they would be assessed the cost of plowing at all.

    5. Sean: Given current economic times, it is almost impossible to justify putting sidewalks in existing areas that don’t have them.

      My first preference would be to have the schools work with the City to identify where sidewalks are most needed for children who are walking. Almost eveyone else has a choice about walking and where they want to walk.

  9. I think snow removal is a minor obstacle when weighed against pedestrian safety. A homeowner is already clearing the snow from their driveway. How much extra work would a sidewalk add? 10-20%

    1. Jerry- How much extra shoveling/blowing is involved depends on the location of the lot. My neighbor has a corner lot, and without measuring it exactly, I would estimate his sidewalk area is 75% of his driveway, and he has a three-car garage.

  10. John,
    Because your neighbor has a corner lot is this really a reason not to build sidewalks to our public schools? homeowners are expected to keep their yard neat in the warm months and driveway and sidewalks clear of snow in the winter. It’s part of the cost of ownership. I think it is a weak argument to suggest some people should not have this responsibility and kids should have to walk to school in the street because your neighbor has a corner lot and shoveling would be an inconvenience. I realize that is not what your are directly saying, but it is very much implied in your comment. I completely understand how much shoveling is required is dependent on the size and shape of your yard. I was throwing out an estimate that probably fits most homes in town. I shovel one of the largest sidewalks in town. I think David’s cost argument is much stronger as I stated earlier and needs to be considered before any action is taken.

    1. Jerry- I am all for sidewalks, and I did not mean to imply that this was some inconvenioence. I was only responding to your extra time estimate.
      “How much extra work would a sidewalk add? 10-20%”

  11. David:

    Given current economic times, it is almost impossible to justify putting sidewalks in existing areas that don’t have them.

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to sidewalks as their own project or sidewalks being installed (new or replacement) as part of a larger infrastructure project. In fact, the West First Street project does include sidewalk in a few blocks that did not previously have coverage (as did the East Fifth project a few years ago, as Rob references). The “economic times” are only marginally relevant. Sidewalks are not a luxury; if necessary, the whole project should be put on hold rather than allowing it to be done poorly by serving only cars.

    If you’re referring to sidewalks as their own project, again, it has little to do with the “economic times.” People are always reluctant to put in sidewalks on their own project. While proper sidewalk coverage may not be realistic for Eveleth, County 1, and S. Highway 3, some retrofit is in order before the roads undergo larger reconstruction. A shared-use path in the ditch is not ideal, but it’s relatively low cost and better than nothing.

    Rob — an excellent post, and it also raises the issue of overall street and community design. You can have a network of dead-end culs de sac totally covered with sidewalks, but they’re not particularly useful if they don’t provide efficient pedestrian movement. Only a grid or modified grid does this well.

    1. Sean: I don’t know how, why, or from where the idea that economics is only marginally relevant comes.

      We had a Chamber forum this morning. I am hearing some of the same arguments from the elected officials. Money does matter. It is the single most important part of any government project, as it is of all of our consumer spending. For example, there is a headlong rush to build a bike trail without any regard for the costs. Other projects like the Safety Center and the library seem to be on similar paths.

      Would you prefer that we build sidewalks every place in town and not have money for a Safety Center or a library expansion?

    2. David,
      I say it’s only “marginally relevant” because, as you’ve demonstrated in your own comments here, it’s only a marginal part of the decision-making process. Were cost the only issue, why bring up snow removal? Or “that people did not want to have a sidewalk in front of their house”? Cost is not the only thing at play here.

      Also, if cost were the only issue, let’s note that even with streets, there are other things to cut first. We pay to pave space for on-street parking when it’s used very little in newer neighborhoods. We pay for the luxury of the width two-way streets when one-way would suffice. We pay, again, for curb and gutter in areas that the density doesn’t require it. These are all things I would cut before sidewalks.

  12. Very well said Rob. Your’re a man ahead of your time. years ago I read Suburban Nation. the authors pointed out the benefits of sidewalks and connecting neighbors. They argued that it actually improved neighborhood safety. Fewer break ins and increased property values. Imagine that.

    1. Your comments are really true. My son has a degree in Landscape Architecture, and part of their emphasis is on city planning. Now that so much has been done with asymetrical non-grid street layouts, people are finding them to be confusing and frustrating. Has anyone tried to find a location in Eden Prairie? You can see a building in the distance, but not have the slightest idea how to get there. New Brighton is very similar. The old grid system is proving to be the best street layout. Sidewalks, street lights and front porches all make for safer communities. David L. has a good point that all this costs money, but perhaps these are some things that are worth sacrificing some leisure time and disposable income to obtain.

  13. A related topic is the speed limit around schools. The speed limit coming into town on route 9 (from the south/east) doesn’t get down to 40 until after one has passed the middle school. Where is the emphasis on safety there?

    1. Felicity, you mean South Division/MN 246, right? (Goodhue County 9 until Dennison.) I know that Mn/DOT sets the speed for that road, and apparently 55 is what the deemed appropriate when the Middle School was built. The usual rule, as I understand it, is that speed is set to what 80% of the drivers are driving at or under. In the case of this road, that may actually be the case (I don’t think Highway 3, though it’s much better-equipped for 55 mph traffic, would meet this standard if a speed study were done today).

      That doesn’t mean it’s safe, but it does indicate that there’s more going on. A large part of the problem with South Division, I think, actually relates to sidewalks. There are shared-use paths until the Middle School, but they’re set way too far back from the road and totally out of sight of drivers. Though they’re good for ped/bike safety, they’re totally useless for traffic calming. The lack of any pedestrian crossing south of Jefferson Parkway also contributes to this.

  14. Sean – great post, and as you can see, sidewalks are one of those hot issues in Northfield. You might get a charge out of the Northfield News archives at the library during the sidewalk referendum time. It was just before I got to Northfield, and as I understand it, that referendum was as contentious or more than the Target one. I regard sidewalks as a necessity, like public schools, and the notion of a referendum struck me as odd. Anyway, some of that history might help make sense of the responses you’ll be getting here!

  15. The walk score where I live on Highland Ave is only 45. One big problem: besides no sidewalks in the post-50s developments, there are few destinations other than other houses to walk to. I wish Kildahl Park Pointe had put in some retail on their ground floor–a place to get your hair cut, for example.


    Sean, a tremendous post. You helped me to realize that there are no sidewalks connecting the northwest part of town to the Hwy 19 corridor from Odd Fellows lane all the way to Hwy 3. That’s three streets without sidewalks, including Orchard and Plum Sts. And when Poplar St. was disconnected from Hwy 19, a path should have been installed between the new cul de sac and the sidewalk on Hwy 19. It’s an example of how even recently we have failed to accommodate all modes of transport.


    The other day I was biking up Odd Fellows and noticed a woman in a motorized chair going down the street. She was probably a Three Links resident. If this community wants to truly serve its growing number of retirees, it had better get sidewalks on that street.


    David, I’m skeptical that Woodley St. sidewalks would cost millions, esp. where the topography is flat and the right of way is already owned by a public entitity.


    I’ve been doing volunteer research and writing on complete streets for the Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition, and I’ve concluded that sidewalks and other “CS” features make financial sense. I just published a blog post with data on the costs of physical inactivity and obesity, taken from a scholarly book on exercise science and sports medicine. About 10 percent of health care costs are directly attributable to physical inactivity and obesity. That’s a conservative estimate that doesn’t count the indirect costs to individuals, employers, and governments from lost worker productivity, etc. (or other costs of an auto-dependent society: higher gas prices, wars in oil-rich regions, inefficient land use, etc.) The health care costs alone are billions and billions of dollars on a national scale, millions on a local scale.

    See also the fact sheets published by the National Complete Streets Coalition.


    True fiscal conservatism means returning to a more traditional city design, with sidewalks, multi-use zoning, and higher densities. This will save our society money in the long run. It’s for that reason that the National Business Group on Health supports sidewalks, paths, and similar facilities to help keep us healthy. Here’s an excerpt from one of their publications on obesity:


    Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, and the prevalence of obesity in children has tripled since 1980. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. The cost of obesity to private employers is conservatively estimated at $13B per year.1 Obesity and overweight are responsible for an estimated 27% of annual trend in medical premiums paid by private employers.2

    David, I hope you and the Chamber will take advantage of the resources offered by this group. They are helping businesses to keep health care costs down and employees healthy.

  16. Bill,
    I did realize, after I responded to your comment on Northfield Nomo regarding Orchard/Plum/Odd Fellows that sidewalks may be more difficult than it would first appear. I’m not sure what the grade is, but for ADA compliance sidewalks should not exceed 5%. Now, granted, difficulty in serving everybody is no excuse for serving nobody, but it is a variable that might help explain why the streets have gone without coverage for so long.

    However, that complication makes the S. Poplar disconnection that you reference all the more irritating. Poplar already has sidewalks on the 400 block, and it’s a much milder climb than the other three.

    I will note that in similar situations on City streets, a sidewalk connection has been maintained. N. Linden Street has one block of street missing — adjacent to Emmaus Church — but still has sidewalks. A similar solution was done on the freshly disconnected W. 1st Street.

  17. Sean, that is a generous assessment of why these streets lack sidewalks. I’m sure that not all sidewalks in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Duluth, Stillwater, and other hilly cities meet that ADA rule. Oddfellows is not as steep as the other two streets, and the link at the end of Poplar would be mostly flat if it were installed.

    1. Bill- If I remember the ADA requirements correctly, the maximun slope recommended is 1′-0″ rise 1n 10′-0″ run, with rest points every 20′-0″. The thing about San Francisco & Duluth is that the sidewalks were laid prior to the ADA requirements. I think that if the city adds new sidewalks where none exists, then they must meet the requirements. This could be verified at City Hall.

    2. Looking on the County GIS, I see Orchard St has a ~34 ft rise between 4th and 5th Streets. The distance is about 350 feet, so you could meet 1:10, but rest stops might be tricky. Orchard and Plum both have adequate width for sidewalks on both sides, though Odd Fellows Lane has a nonstandard right of way (under 40 ft; 65 is standard). The street would need to be significantly narrowed or additional right of way acquired.

      As Bill rightly points out, though, none of these issues apply to Poplar St. The right of way is already there, and the slope is very mild.

    3. A correction on my info in 21.1 regarding slope of ramps. Under the new rules, the slope must be no greater that 1:12, with a maximum run between landings of 30′-0″. The link gives an illustration of that:

      What is not clear in the info I accessed is how this pertains to public sidewalks. I am assuming that since it is a federal mandate, then local municipalities are subject to it.

  18. A ramp is very different from a sidewalk, which is usually at the same level as the street that it parallels. I’d be surprised if the ADA rules, as stringent as they are, require a sidewalk to have a different slope than the street it is on. The topography of a street with buildings on it can’t be altered without the costs becoming absurd. Thus I think that it would allow a sidewalk even on a steep street, even for new construction. There is only so much that can be done given the slope of the hill that the street is on.


    Thus I’d be surprised if ADA rules would not allow sidewalks on any street in Northfield, even those on steep hills.

    1. Bill- It would just be common sense to me that these guidelines would not/could not apply to sidewalks, but, unfortunately, common sense is just not too common anymore. I would side with you and Sean in the respect that having any mobility impaired person on a sidewalk is much safer than having them trying to navigate the street. Now, if we can get everyone to allow them to be sufficiently lighted, we will have a win-win solution.

  19. I read Sean’s link on ADA requirements and see the 5% guideline as just that, a guideline, not an absolute rule. The text indicates that it can’t be met in all cases. It does have ideas for minimizing the dangers inherent in a steep slope.


    Obviously, the same dangers for a wheelchair on a steep slope exist on the street itself in those places where there are no sidewalks.

  20. Bill, again I agree that abiding by accessibility recommendations should not be a roadblock (no pun intended), but it could guide us as to where to start. Since Poplar Street has the mildest grade, it should be the first priority. Secondarily, I think Orchard Street should be considered (since it already has right-of-way and has the signaled crossing on 5th Street).

    Of course, access could also be improved if the sidewalks were continued to Armstrong Road and connected to those on Forest Avenue.

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