Whither Woodley

WoodleyPrairie.jpgThe photo at left is of the famous or infamous Prairie – Woodley intersection. At next Monday’s (August 20th) City Council meeting, Agenda Item # 14 is to “Consider Resolution 2007-091 – Ordering Improvement No. 05 – Woodley Street from Prairie Street to Jefferson Parkway and preparation of plans and specifications”.

There has been a buzz building on this topic over the past few weeks. The e-mails have been whizzing through the net, letters have been sent to the local paper, and citizens have been speaking out at the open mic. It is clearly an important matter.

According to the staff summary on the agenda topic, “The proposed improvements will include upgrading Woodley Street (CSAH 28) from a 2-lane rural section roadway to urban roadway standards with a single lane in each direction, a center left turn lane and right turn lanes at the major intersections”. Other details of the proposed work include “new curb and gutter along both sides of the roadway”, the lengthening of existing box culverts to “accommodate the proposed road widening and improvements” and the “addition/completion of the pedestrian pathway along the north side and a sidewalk along the south side of the proposed roadway section”.

Some decades ago, when my wife was growing up in Northfield, the south side of Woodley Street was agricultural land, complete with farm houses and farm animals. Now it’s pretty much the north-south dividing line of our growing residential land use. It is understandable that the design is shifting from a rural roadway to an urban roadway.

The Mayor’s Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force offered comments on the project, according to one member, “rather late in the game”. They suggested that the “existing project design could be improved in the following areas: Traffic Calming, Safe Crossings, Safe on-road facilities for cyclists, and Safe off-road facilities for pedestrians”. I talked with Betsey Buckheit, a member of the Task Force, this morning. She said that at this point in the process, the most productive strategy might be to work to assure the implementation of the few specifications in the design that contribute to the Task Force’s goals.

It reminds me of the relatively recently completed Highway 3 project, particularly the section from the 5th Street intersection to the St. Olaf Avenue intersection. The focus of the designs and the dollars was on moving vehicles quickly and conveniently through our community. Traffic calming, safe crossing and nonmotorized transportation seemed to me to be afterthoughts instead of priorities.

Maybe Betsey is right and we should realistically assess our objectives. There is some federal money involved in the project and in these times of inadequate funding for transportation needs, such a resource must be considered. However, although the powers outside of our community consider Highway 3 to be the property of the State and Highway 28 to be the property of the County, I consider to them to be the streets of Northfield. I hope someday soon safe pedestrian crossing will be as much of a priority as convenient vehicular movement in the design of our roadways.

43 thoughts on “Whither Woodley”

  1. It would be great if people can help with comments, focused on how to improve the project if necessary and not on what’s wrong with it now.
    The project is a challenging one, to be sure. I do think the city gave great thought to pedestrian and bike safety, including a three-lane road with a center turn lane and trails on either side.
    The challenges include:
    Whether a third turning lane helps safety or makes the road wider and more dangerous for people walking across.
    Whether there should be bike lanes on pavement or separate trails and how wide all the lanes and trails should be. Some new research indicates bike riders are safer riding in bike lanes on the road rather than separate trails, which should be used by walkers.
    How all the trails, lanes, pavement, drainage and other components of the plan can be squeezed into the space available without killing too many trees or eating up the front lawns of existing homes.
    Add to this the fact that the nonmotorized transportation task force was just appointed in May, which is very late in this particular process, and the fact that decisions have to be made soon to get construction done next summer.
    I think the people on all sides are trying hard to find the right mix of pieces in this project, but it is a real challenge — and a fascinating one.
    Full disclosure: I am a member of the task force, but speaking here as an individual (frankly, I’m not yet as nonmotorized yet as I’d like to be, so I will ask the more expert members of the group to chime in here).

  2. Ross –

    Thanks for blogging this. Your last paragraph helps me re-conceptualize a big factor in my support for the project (support which I describe at embarrassing length in my letter to the News): that the project as currently planned will be a great boon for pedestrians and bikers moving *along* (not just *across*) Woodley. I’ve already made plain my self-interest as a bike commuter who has to use this route every day (sometimes wearing a tie), but I also see – literally every time I drive or bike this stretch – people walking, running, biking, rollerblading, scootering, etc’ing along the road. The current path is an afterthought, being broken up into discrete segments that require you to get on the road (often at very narrow chokepoints like the crossing of Spring Creek). Even a fast and responsible bike rider like myself risks getting caught on one of the blind curves at the west end of this stretch – to say nothing of risks incurred by walkers and runners who have to be on the road surface because there’s no shoulder or path there. The project will go a long way to fixing these problems and making it safe to walk, for instance, west out of the Mayflower Hill subdivision, south on Spring Creek Road, then east along Woodley back to the subdivision. Such a walk now is impossible to do without endangering yourself.

    By saying all this, I don’t want to diminish the importance of safe, short crossings: we have to have those, too. But apart from cars having to get over Woodley at Spring Creek Road, I don’t see many people moving perpendicular to traffic along this stretch. At and west of Prairie, it’s a different matter – but this project may still help with the troubles at the Woodley-Prairie intersection, especially if the citizens with good ideas (Bill Ostrem, Bruce Anderson, the Goerwitzes) continue to speak up.

  3. I’ll take Christopher’s word for it that, apart from cars having to get over Woodley at Spring Creek Road, there aren’t many people moving perpendicular to traffic along the eastern stretch of Woodley.

    But what most of us out west are thinking is that whatever pattern gets used in the east will tend to have a ripple effect towards the west. That was the point my wife, Amy, was trying to make in the August 6th city council meeting.

    Also, although I can’t say firsthand, my impression is that people living west of Prairie tend to walk and bike more than those to the east. Also, despite Woodley being what it is, and despite the fact that most of us with kids are desperately afraid of the traffic that zooms along especially the part east of Division Street, people still move across Woodley a lot at our end of the street. They’re trying to get to the schools to the south, or the downtown to the north, or just go walking. There’s just more stuff to go to in the center of town than out east.

    Because it’s different where we are, it’s tempting to say that the east can be de-coupled from the west. But the fact is that the sections are physically connected, and it would be silly to revamp Woodley in radically different ways on either side of Prairie.

    So in fact what I’m saying is that because people to the west often cross the street, we should consider making the east also more crossable, just for the sake of consistency, and because one of our values, as a town, is walkable, traversable, connected neighborhoods.

    But maybe this just isn’t needed or wanted to the east.

    Maybe you can shed light on this.

  4. To give the City a break here, Griff, the Task Force is on the website. The Force is a subgroup of the Park Board, so there’s a link from their page @ http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/cityhall/boards/parksandrecadvisory/nonmotorizedtransportationtaskforce

    But back to the roadway…

    Thanks for blogging this, Ross, I think there are several critical issues here.

    Your last point, that non-motorized traffic be as much a part of roadway design as the motorized traffic (bicycles are a vehicle under state law), is the issue for the upcoming transportation plan update. Assuming the transportation plan prioritizes bike/ped traffic, then the follow-up work of mandating certain road design is necessary. I know that I and the Force will be advocating for this kind of attention to non-motorized transportation in all transportation planning and decision-making (and hope others will follow the process and add their comments).

    For traffic facilities which are new to Northfield, like roundabouts, I think it will take both a new transportation plan incorporating current research on road design as well as quite a bit of education of the public, staff and elected officials to accept new-fangled traffic technology.

    As for the Woodley Street project, my 5 years on the Planning Commission taught me that by the time the public hearing on a project is held, it is WAY TOO LATE to effect much change. The Planning Commission and City Council hold hearings and then decide the issue the same night or at the following meeting unless some startling new information arises at the hearing (and this is very rare). So I’m betting that this project will happen pretty much as it is planned and, if I were on the Council, I’d be extremely wary of turning down that much federal money given the state of the city’s finances and the city’s streets.

    Woodley Street tells me that now is the time to find out what project is next in line and start working on it immediately.

  5. I stand corrected, Betsey. I had no idea the task force was part of the Park & Rec Advisory Board. When I didn’t see it in the main list of board and commissions and task forces, I did a search on the term “nonmotorized” and got:

    > Sorry, no data matching the query “Nonmotorized ” were found.

    But I see it now on the list as a ‘flyout’ when Park and Rec Advisory Board is moused over.

  6. Betsy is right when she says the Public hearing is usually to late to have an effect on the outcome….especially on a big infrastructure project like this that involves multiple jurisdictions and Fed $$$.
    Last Monday (8/13) at the city council work session, there was a very long discussion between council and the three engineers (project, NF, Rice Cnty.) on many various aspects of the Woodley St. design. Actually the most thorough discussion of this type in my recent memory. Lots of comments from the Rice County engineer which allows for you understanding the county POV.
    You guys need to watch the agendas, to make sure you can be there to listen to these discussions. It’s a little more difficult to find those work session agendas, as I think the NFNews is no longer publishing those (?). You can’t usually speak at a work session, although mayor Lansing does often allow some public comment.

  7. Thanks, Ross, for your attention to this project.

    Yes, members of the Task Force on Nonmotorized Transportation missed an opportunity to attend the last city council work session and hear more about the project.

    I won’t add much more here except to say, as chair of the task force, that we have written a report on the project, shared it with the parties involved, and have learned much ourselves about roundabouts, bike lanes, side paths, and more.

    I appreciate the fact that pedestrian and bike access were built into the project design. However, the task force has a number of concerns about the project, including the lack of a four-way stop or roundabout at Woodley and Prairie, as well as concerns about problems with side paths (or multi-use trails) of the kind proposed for the north side of Woodley. The latter have high accident rates for cyclists at street and driveway crossings, of which there are many on the proposed path. They also can lead to accidents between pedestrians and cyclists. So on-road bike lanes would probably be a better solution in this corridor.

    One other point: the task force reports to the Park and Recreation Advisory Board and has one member from that group on it. It is not technically a subcommittee, however, since the other task force members are not on the Park Board.

  8. Nfld News: Plans for Woodley Street pushed off again

    City engineer Katy Gehler-Hess requested Monday that the council order improvements and preparation of plans for the road segment, but the council unanimously agreed not to pass the resolution… Of the nine public comments offered, most differed about where and how wide sidewalks, pedestrian paths and bike lanes should be. Several speakers also urged the council and county to place stop signs at the intersection with Prairie Street, add roundabouts or lower speed limits to control traffic.

  9. I was at the council meeting referenced above and want to note that the Northfield News article leaves out one of the major points of contention: the number of motor vehicle lanes, which impacts the road width and the amount of right-of-way needed to be secured, as well as the speed of motor vehicles. Should it be two or three lanes?

    Regarding the sidepath (also called a multi-use trail or shared-use path) on the north side of Woodley, I am saying it is less safe than on-road bike lanes for cyclists. Also, pedestrians are safer on sidewalks than on a sidepath since they will have less conflict with cyclists. Imagine trying to walk your dog with a bunch of cyclists going by on a shared 8-foot path.

    Children and less confident cyclists can still ride on the sidewalk, though I would advise able-bodied adults to not do so. The main issue is that the sidepath crosses a combined total of 12 streets and driveways between Prairie and Jefferson Parkway, each being a potential point of conflict – more so when a cyclist is on the path than on the roadway.

    I shared a resource with city and county engineers, a web page that quotes strong warnings about “operational problems” with sidepaths from the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities: http://www.bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/aashside.htm.

    AASHTO is the American Assoc. of State Highway and Traffic Officials and its guide is a standard reference source.

    Search the Internet for the terms “dangers sidepaths” (or side paths) if you want to know more.

    I hope to do a blog entry on this today.

  10. Something else I should have said: the Northfield News makes it sound like bike lanes and sidewalks are the major sticking points, but the reason there was such a big public turnout from the residents on the street is that they are concerned that the current design creates a wide, 3-lane road road with higher motor vehicle speeds than they would like. A wide right-of-way also takes out trees, and they don’t like that either.

  11. Woodley is an important project, especially because the issues are some of the same ones that will come up soon, as the city is embarking on an update of its transportation plan.
    The nonmotorized transportation task force is working on plans for a community meeting Oct. 3 to gather information from people about the good things in our current system and the things that need improvement. There is no one answer that will work everywhere in town, and our job isn’t to lobby for bicyclists over drivers, but to help coordinate safe travel for people using all forms of transportation. I just thought I’d encourage people to save the date and watch for more info later.

  12. Anne- You said, “…and our job isn’t to lobby for bicyclists over drivers, but to help coordinate safe travel for people using all forms of transportation.” What do you mean by suggesting such logic?! We need something not driven by special interst groups.

    Hopefully, the city has a comprehensive plan for this. One of the best plans ever developed anywhere in the world is the greenway system around the Twin Cities. It was designed back in the late 1800’s, by a landscape architect, when this was all wilderness. It was designed for both foot and carriage traffic at that time, and has been easily adapted to contemporary vehicular and pedestrian traffic. A good landscape architect could develop a plan for Northfield, if we don’t have one.

  13. John,

    I’m not sure that a comprehensive plan will make it possible to develop every street without controversy, though it would make it easier.

    The city does have an ambitious and laudable Greenway Corridors plan, which could be to Northfield as the Minneapolis greenway system is to that city. The Park Board is in the process of developing a Park Master Plan, and the consultant, Jeff Schoenbauer of Brauer and Associates, has some good ideas for implementing the Greenway plan in loops around the city. Also, to my surprise, he is looking at bikeways on city streets as part of the park master plan process.

    I urge people to support this project when it comes to the council for action and funding.

    Here is a map of the Greenway Corridor plan: http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/g/GREENWAYS11.9.pdf

    A draft of the Greater Northfield Area Greenway Corridor Action Plan is available in a recent City Council packet, published online by the city. See pages 29 to 46 of this PDF file: http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/p/Packet36.pdf

    I don’t know if this is the latest version of the plan.

  14. Bill- Thanks for that information. I just was not aware of a master plan. I agree, that plan will not eleminate controversy. Any time the city starts to change something, it will certainly stir up someone. The benefit I see in a master plan is to have some continuity in the developement process. These things take years to complete, and sucessive generations of leadership need some foundation to build on. Sounds like we have a good process in place.

  15. It would seem that if Hwy 1 were extended through to Hwy 28/42, county highway through traffic easily could be diverted along 1, leaving Woodley a city street and simple county road. Of course, thie would lower Woodley’s priority for funding, but it seems that the highway would nicely cross the south edge of town rather than through the middle of it (which of course was the edge of town when it was designated a highway, I suppose).
    Extending Maple Street just a short distance to intersect with 1 could give another through collector (although it will add traffic along the edge of the soccer fields.
    Maybe the city and residents have to decide whether it is more important to take the state/county aid and keep the highway regulations for construction, or see the money used to extend Hwy 1 and reduce the traffic on Woodley.
    (Now I’m working off Mapquest, so there may be some terrain issue that would prevent this, but it’s the concept of diverting traffic that’s important.)

  16. Monday’s work session will be interesting as well. I plan on attending, just to watch and understand what they are going to be voting on, when it comes up on Monday.

  17. Highway 1 is indeed County 1 and as such, Northfield can not extend nor expect the County to extend it beyond what it is now for many years to come. That far south of the City limits, the obvious major east-west link to the south is 246 through Dennison… not really a part of the City’s transportation scheme for years, if ever.

    Jumping down to county 1 via Maple south is also a no-no as that portion of Maple goes through township land, not City of Northfield property and would require Township dollars [they have fewer then the City) and a Township vote. Not being in the city means Northfield could not assess the property owners along that roadway any part of the cost.

    Frequently south east neighbors have come to the Plan Comm with similar requests for the reroute of traffic leaving town from their area to be able to go south on Hall or Maple then use Cnty 1 – and it simply is a dream, not reality, not now.

    A more doable plan might be a traffic light at Jefferson Parkway and Division Street making sense of that traffic tangle at rush hours with all the school bus traffic etc… but MnDot won’t budge on that.

    As to Woodley crossing the city’s midsection, more or less, while not high on the Woodley east neighbors list of wants, seems like a reasonable upgrade considering the traffic count increases that are expected. Arterial streets are not necessarily on the outer edges of cities.. often major streets cut wider swaths in five or ten block intervals. Woodley is the only street that goes from Highway 3, east, out of town. Fifth Street jigs around a bit and gets out east eventually, but goes through what some might say is an even heavier residential use. The pedestrian issue there are equal to Woodley/100th ST. E

    Maybe the residents who live on Woodley would hope it would remain a low count traffic generator… it only seems realistic that in 5 to 10 years those numbers and the speed will increase and the inconvenience to neighborhood concepts will be abandoned.

    We’ll see. But you can’t make a transportation plan on a computer using map quest.

  18. For me an essential (and easily added) part of the plan for
    Woodly is traffic calming, specifically speed humps (not to
    be confused with speed bumps, which are mainly used in
    parking lots).

    Here’s an interesting, data-driven document covering legal
    issues surrounding traffic calming strategies:

    http://www.ite.org/traffic/documents/AHA98B26.pdf

    The bottom line is that although everybody talks about how
    speed humps might cause motorcyclists to flip, and so on,
    these fears are unjustified – and the speed humps have many
    benefits.

    Among these benefits is effective speed reduction without
    substantial law enforcement presence.

    I’ll be happy when people just naturally go about the right
    speed on Woodley, and my poor neighbor down the street
    doesn’t end up periodically calling the police and begging
    them to put speed indicators in place, so people realize
    just how fast they’re driving.

    Anyway, take a look at the above link.

    Speed humps are very progressive, neighborhood-friendly,
    cost-effective ways to ensure that traffic flows fine, but
    keeps to a reasonable speed.

    Rumble strips are probably too *loud* (worse than speeding
    cars).

    Richard Goerwitz

  19. On a 4-3 vote, the council passed the resoultion approving the Woodley Street Project.

    Amendments were presented, but voted down. Project is to proceed as originally planned.

  20. Thanks for the update, John. Let’s remember, this is an improvement, even if it isn’t what everyone had hoped to see.
    I think it’s more important than ever for people to get involved in the city’s current planning process for trails and transportation. The Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force is looking for input from residents. What works now? What intersections drive you crazy, which trails have missing sections?
    You can call or e-mail task force members (including John and me). On Wednesday, Oct. 3 will be holding a listening session to begin gathering comments. We’ll have more information on the meeting soon.
    For now, keep sending comments to City Hall to our attention and we will add them to our own comments and ideas.
    Let’s make sure the next project has public comment from the very beginning of the process.

  21. Whither Woodley seems like at least for now, be better termed “WITHER WOODLEY.”

    I have it on good authority that the vote to pass this item (category of…) required a super majority.

    As informed as I often think I am… I’m not certain if that’s 5 of 7 or 6 of 7 – I think it is FIVE. Regardless… Thursday night’s vote was four in favor and three opposed – thus it failed!

    Put your bull dozers on hold…….. and plan for an assault on City Hall. Check that! Maybe the first stop ought to be at the Rice County Offices. Bash a few heads down there.

    As Jim Pokorney said, everyone involved… interested in… and present at all of the Meetings these past few months is a resident of Rice County. Councilman Pokorney might provide car pooling.

    Where’s the prayer service when you need it? Incidentally, I didn’t see any in attendance Thursday night. Oh M’gosh!

  22. Follow up to my own comment Before Griff asks the question – well if so… what’s next?

    A resolution [any legislative action ] by a body operating under Robert’s Rules can reverse themselves as follows: [this is NOT official… but it close and better than you might get from some around here who like to read their own comments

    1) A motion to Recind may be appropriate – but me thinks a Motion to…

    2) Reconsider is what were looking at here. Recind merely makes the action un-actionable – While, “Reconsidering” does just that… allows voters to reconsider their vote and allows for a restart from ground zero.

    I’m sure there’s a mavin or mavinette in touch with God who can better explain. Perhaps not.

    Nonetheless to “Reconsider” requires one of the prevailing votes [in this case that would be one of the three who voted NO] – to Move To Reconsider Resolution number xxxxxxxxxx.

    That motion would require a A SECOND. Whether from the prevailing three or not… I’m not sure.

    Assuming then it is seconded… [is there any doubt?] the proposition is put to a revote and those of the public who might be hoping for forward movement would “pray” that at least one of the three would change his vote.

    How the prevailing prayers [persons] might influence this vote is disputable.

    I digressed…… I’d say there’s a lot of hard ball to be played – in the open of the public’s eye or behind the scenes… to get one of the “THREE” to compromise the principle of his vote.

    The County staff has been difficult and unmovable – or so it seems to moi, just the casuale observer. thus deserving of the dressing down they received from Pokorney. Nelson voted a number of principles – namely that citizens requests had not been adequately included in the discussion. Lansing was disturbed by a variety of issues he felt were not in the City’s best interests… including the speed limit. Lansing’s attempt to deliver a thoroughly discussed version were muted by majority on the Council that wanted to get-on-with-it!

    CP Pokorney may have stepped too deep into the muck of politics with his remarks about the County… but from my POV his remarks were on-target, when he spoke of the County’s [staff or Commissioners] methods.

    It remains to be seen whether the County will support the reduced speed limit. This is likely the biggest sticking point. Hooray for those of the N’Fld City Council who voted for that principle.

    Raspberries to the others.

    Frankly, a more aggressive approach to this issue by the City [Council and Staff] early on might have moved this mess forward much earlier – Given all the time time expended, were Pokorney, the Mayor and Arnie Nelson wrong to vote to hang it up?

    Nope… they were fortunate that the vote required… was greater than the vote it got.

    vs

  23. I was on East Woodley at about 5 PM tonight. The survey stakes are already in the ground, and they are moving forward.

    Go out, and take a look at those stakes. They are WAY UP on the sides of the road.

    This is going to be a BIG WIDE monster…

    It is going to be right up in peoples yards, and then some. Lots of trees coming out.

    I will try to get some pictures this weekend.

    -J

  24. Victor was correct. In today’s Nfld News:

    Plans for Woodley project are not approved; Special meeting vote Thursday night fails
    http://northfieldnews.com/main.asp?SectionID=21&SubSectionID=44&ArticleID=20842

    A 4-3 vote by city councilors Thursday that appeared to give the go-ahead to the widening of East Woodley Street, didn’t have enough votes after all. Road projects in which 35 percent or more of affected residents are assessed for the improvements have strict requirements. One of them includes approving preparation of a project’s plans and specifications by a four-fifths majority. That means six of the seven council members needed to approve the resolution. City officials realized the oversight Friday morning.

  25. I hate to engage in any public recriminations, especially since even the three “nay” votes supported the fundamental concepts underlying this project (an improved road, bike and pedestrian trails/lanes, anticipation of future needs), but this incredible turnabout strikes me as an example of near-incompetent governance. Who is responsible for understanding the nature of the council’s voting process, especially technical matters such as the need for a “supermajority,” if not the councilmen, mayor, city administrator, and staff? As much as I appreciated the council’s support for the project, I also find this gaffe absolutely infuriating.

    If anyone’s in the mood to spin this dross into gold, though, maybe this delay can be put to good use. Could a senior administrator charge staff with developing, in the time between now and the 9/10 council meeting, a plan which incorporates the many excellent suggestions and recommendations which seemed to have been embraced by both members of the audience and of the council (real bike *lanes*, not hazardous bike sidepaths, being preeminent among them for me)? At Thursday’s meeting, the engineers took a firm (not to say obstinate) stance against any further modifications to the plan, arguing that any such modifications would cause further delays to the project itself. Lo and behold, the fates intervened to create a delay and some time to fix things.

    In addition, maybe the time before the next council meeting could be used constructively by the city and the county to iron out some of their differences with respect to speed limits, road width, etc.

    Perhaps I’m trying too hard to see the tipped-over glass as half full, here, but maybe just maybe the meeting on the 10th could consider a revised plan which would get *all* of the councilmen’s approval.

  26. Having lived on Woodley and raised children who had to cross Woodley at the College intersection I think it is imperative to have a plan in place to slow traffic before it crosses Prairie Street. It may need to happen further out Woodley as the development moves that way.

    We had a car land in our yard, barely missing a tree and the corner of our house. Thankfully there were no children out playing at the time. He missed the curve and was going way too fast. Crossing Woodley is treacherous because many drivers do not obey the speed limit as they come into town.

    My children were bussed to Sibley, we lived within blocks and they could have walked, but because of the dangers of Woodley, the schools bused them. I don’t know if this is still happening but it is an indication that not just a few of us found the street dangerous.

    I know side walks are an issue too but consider the fact that these kids being bused to Sibley, had to walk in the street (Woodley) during the winter to get to the bus stop. Who was doing the thinking here?

    I know parents have requested that these speed issues be addressed and I would like to see, on paper, exactly what will be done so that it is integrated into the plan to slow traffic, before the project starts and the money just happens to run out before it is implemented.

    I do agree that the eastern part of the street, the way it is now, is not safe either, but lets not raise the probability that we will be bringing even faster traffic into town on a street that does pass through a neighborhood.

  27. The problem for parents is the jurisdictional maze.

    Woodley is a county road, and the county doesn’t care about
    pedestrians and bikes. They actually can’t designate the road
    as urban. And their priority is moving cars as quickly/safely
    as they can from one point to another, which for most roads
    that head through the countryside is more appropriate than it
    is in town.

    Yet the funds we receive are, I believe, from the feds via
    the county, so if the county cedes Woodley to the city, we
    lose federal the money, and we don’t want that. Therefore the
    county is involved, for worse and also for better.

    There was a special meeting on August 23rd in which a lot of
    this came out more clearly than it had before. During this
    meeting there was a fascinating “exchange” between Galen
    Malecha and Jim Pokorney in which Jim made a couple of points:

    1) The county hadn’t seemed to him to be very collaborative
    2) He didn’t understand why the county seemed exclusively
    focused on motorized vehicles

    Galen shot back aggressively saying:

    1) That we should trust our engineers, who thought the road
    had to be designed as in the plans, or fire them (in effect
    declaring the very sort of ultimatum that illustrates
    Jim’s point about the county seeming anti-collaborative)

    2) Galen also said, in front of a room full of people who
    live near county roads and expressed concern about being
    able to walk and bike, that if the county built paths,
    sidewalks, or bike lanes, into its roads, “nobody would
    use them.”

    Galen looked pretty bad, but I think he, deep down, had some
    points that were correct. In fact most county roads don’t go
    through urban areas. So (2) is naturally correct for most
    stretches of county road. Also, there’s a difference between
    trusting one’s engineers and requiring them to be less aloof,
    and asking them to talk with us, explain things (and explain
    them again – and again). When I take a car to get fixed, my
    service station doesn’t hand me a bill and say “pay us to do
    this work or fire us.” Even though they’re the experts, they
    take the time to explain things to me, get input, and possibly
    try things they hadn’t thought of. As we all know, experts
    disagree. Best practice varies across time and location. So
    while Galen is right that we should trust experts, experts
    need to understand their role, and his comments didn’t help
    that process along. They were actually quite divisive – even
    hostile.

    It’s a shame that Galen came off the way he did, and shot back
    at Jim Pokorney. There was a chance there for a meeting of
    minds.

    Richard Goerwitz

  28. To me, the problem is not just one road, it’s lack of planning all across the state. Look at Cedar/Foliage, for example.

    By the way, I see kids riding bikes on Woodley all the time… kids getting places– not just “riding.” Housing extends pretty far out that way, now.

    My thought, Galen: All paved roads should be bike/pedestrian safe– build for the future.

  29. Darlene Hand has a letter in today’s Nfld News: A letter to the Council Members

    That East Woodley Street needs to be made safer is not the argument. Not only does the window above my kitchen sink overlook Woodley, I am also a walker and biker. I know how treacherous Woodley is and the increasing number of people using it. The argument is saving our majestic trees while improving Woodley.

    I want to thank Mayor Lee Lansing, Councilmen Arnie Nelson and Jim Pokorney for voting in support of the concerns of the people in our neighborhood even though this is not their neighborhood.

    Was it not obvious to the planner, while drawing up a plan beyond what is necessary to solve Woodley’s problem, that the people living here would not want to lose their huge, centuries old trees? Why was the plan drawn up, monies secured and a time table finalized without this being a consideration?

    Darlene Hand

  30. This issue is over for now, UNLESS the council decides to take Woodley back from the county, AFTER the reconstruction is done (there’s a petition process for that) and then the city could set their own speed limit and lane striping…….But in the meantime, here’s a great quote:

    “Widening roads to overcome congestion is like loosening our belt to solve obesity” from John Norquist, former Mayor of Milwaukee, and now President of the Congress for New Urbanism (as of 2005)

  31. Sadly, Kiffi, this issue is essentially over for now. The plan could have been much better, but the county’s intransigence and the council’s lack of willingness to exhibit some backbone made that unachievable.

    The plan as approved MAY be safer than the existing roadway, which everyone recognizes is hazardous to all forms of life, motorized and nonmotorized. However, the many problems with a mixed pedestrian/bicycle sidepath with a dozen or so crossings (single-family/multiple residence driveways and cross roads)could possibly still be addressed, and in a way that could allow for lowering the speed limit from 40 to 30 mph through the entire project area.

    There is a state statute which explicitly gives local units of government the ability to set speed limits WITHOUT MNDOT CONDUCTING ANY ENGINEERING OR SAFETY STUDY ON ROADWAYS DESIGNATED AS BIKEWAYS.

    MN Statute 160.263 (Bicycle Lanes and Ways) reads as follows:
    “Subd. 2. Powers of political subdivisions. The governing body of any political subdivision may by ordinance or resolution:
    (1) designate any roadway or shoulder or portion thereof under its jurisdiction as a bicycle lane or bicycle route;
    (2) designate any sidewalk or portion thereof under its jurisdiction as a bicycle path provided that the designation does not destroy a pedestrian way or pedestrian access;
    (3) develop and designate bicycle paths;
    (4) designate as bikeways all bicycle lanes, bicycle routes, and bicycle paths.
    Subd. 3. Designation. (a) A governing body designating a bikeway under this section may:
    (1) designate the type and character of vehicles or other modes of travel which may be operated on a bikeway, provided that the operation of such vehicle or other mode of travel is not inconsistent with the safe use and enjoyment of the bikeway by bicycle traffic;
    (2) establish priority of right-of-way on the bicycle lane or bicycle path and otherwise regulate the use of bikeways as it deems necessary; and
    (3) paint lines or construct curbs or establish other physical separations to exclude the use of the bikeways by vehicles other than those specifically permitted to operate thereon.
    (b) The designating governing body may, after public hearing, prohibit through traffic on any highway or portion thereof designated as a bicycle lane or bicycle route, except that through traffic may not be prohibited on a trunk highway. The designating governing body shall erect and maintain official signs giving notice of the regulations and priorities established under this subdivision and shall mark all bikeways with appropriate signs. Marking and signing of bikeways by the designating governing body shall be in conformance with the Minnesota Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
    Subd. 4. Speed on street with bicycle lane. Notwithstanding section 169.14, subdivision 5, the governing body of any political subdivision, by resolution or ordinance and without an
    engineering or traffic investigation, may designate a safe speed for any street or highway under its authority upon which it has established a bicycle lane; provided that such safe speed shall
    not be lower than 25 miles per hour. The ordinance or resolution designating a safe speed is effective when appropriate signs designating the speed are erected along the street or highway,
    as provided by the governing body.”

    In other words, get the bikes off sidepaths, where they really shouldn’t be anyway, get them ON the road on safe, marked and signed bike lanes (or possibly even shared use lanes), and the speed limit could be lowered to 30 mph essentially overnight. In addition, the 8-foot sidepath could then be replaced with a 5-foot sidewalk, with a narrower boulevard as well, and the overall footprint of the project could be narrowed a bit.

    It doesn’t seem impossible to accomplish this yet, but then I’m not encouraged by anything I’ve seen in this process thus far. Help us out here, Galen!

  32. Well, we all thought it was over, but it isn’t yet. There has to be another public hearing, which will be on October1, and then the council has to vote again! Maren Swanson, city attorney, said an error was made, related to the needs of public hearings where there are assessments.

    The engineers kept saying that the Sept.10 meeting was the latest the council could vote, without endangering the whole process, because of the timeing of the right-of-way acquisitions……….So was that wholly accurate, or allowing themselves a little bit of time for more possible procedural flukes, which…here’s another one!

    City Administrator Roder made it sound, in the NFNews, as if this was “no problemo”, but I’m not so sure. If there was no more wiggle-room time, then maybe the project is stymied for now, which means maybe the city could consider taking the road back from the county, IF IF IF the city can fund the project ( Street Reclamation Bonding) and then the council could better answer the needs of its residents. (The county seems to have a hard time recognizing that we are citizens of the county also).

    What are those Prayer Ladies praying for ??????

  33. Dead or not dead? A top level authority says “It’s dead!”

    Following Kiffi’s comment, here’s what the N News said 24 hours ago

    Excerpted from a Nfld News Web site article

    Woodley project stalls

    A procedural error has derailed the Street widening project yet again.

    Al Roder said the city’s attorney had just discovered a problem in the process.

    Minnesota law requires the city to hold another public hearing on matters where residents are assessed for improvements, before they’re reconsidered.

    Last week, councilors authorized the project, which runs from Prairie Street to Jefferson Parkway. But without a four-fifths vote, the resolution wasn’t actually passed.

    The issue came to the Council Monday, when they unanimously voted for the project.

    Roder said a second public hearing will be held Monday, Oct. 1. The council will then vote on the project for a third time.

    Roder says the delay, shouldn’t affect the project’s start, set for August 2008.

  34. listening to a bit of the podcast, it reminded me of a “failure of process” mode that we/NF seems to get into, repeatedly.

    This has been a very interactive with the community comp plan process; the previous one i experienced was also; I actually think the public part of this was better than last time.

    HOWEVER……. when we get into the implementation, i.e. putting our public monies where our public mouths have been, we don’t do as well. Or the city council doesn’t do as well; the citizens sure tried. The staff is maybe in the toughest position, having to balance all components of a street project like Woodley, and working with the unmovable county staff; but I haven’t heard a staff presentation that speaks to the council about the intent/spirit of the Comp Plan.

    We have, in this Comp Plan , as well as the last, emphasized the “livability of small towns” nature that the residents wish to preserve. Have you heard this desired quality ,as a guiding principle of our community plan, discussed by either the city staff or council at any of the Woodley meetings?
    I have heard issues of safety for pedestrians and bicycles brought up numerous times, but I have not heard the intrinsic desired nature of the community’s life, as expressed by the overarching goals of our comprehensive plan, brought into the discussion.

    I had thought that statutorally a city was BOUND by the specificity and intent of their Comp Plan; I’m sure there is case law on this issue.

    I think this latest “wrench” in what has been a very flawed process may be fortuitous, if there was strong leadership to take advantage of the opening. Let the loss of monies expended so far be a reminder to all, council and citizens, that it does little good to talk and plan if those planning efforts are constantly set aside in the name of expediency.

    I hope the people who have spoken so strongly on wanting this to remain a neighborhood street, within the city limits, will continue and even get stronger, at the new public hearing.

    If not, then what is the purpose of the long careful planning and all the citizen input, on the current Comp Plan process.

    Aren’t we supposed to be putting “Our fingerprints on Northfield Blueprints” ??????????

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