Tonight’s the night (Thursday, July 31st) of the Open House on Transportation. The meeting will be held at the Northfield High School (1400 Division Street South) in the Upper Cafeteria, from 4 to 7 pm.
The purpose of this meeting will be to preview the recommendations for the City’s 2030 Transportation Plan. Information on both the Draft Updated Transportation Plan and the Northwest Corridor Study will be available.
Okeh, I will begin by “revealing” that I am the brother-in-law of Ray Cox. However, Ray isn’t running for elected office now, so find something else to get you excited.
Ray had a letter to the editor published in the June 24, 2008. It was unfortunately titled,”Widening not best Hwy. 19 plan”. A more accurate, if not better, title would have been “Widening not only Hwy. 19 plan”.
In it, Ray stated, “I believe it is more important for our city leaders to deal with traffic flow issues within the City of Northfield and in the adjacent planning boundaries than to call on MnDOT to rebuild Highway 19 as it exists.” This is crucial, and often repeated, advice that, I believe, must be heeded if we are to make progress on the east-west connection(s) between Interstate 35 and Northfield.
I think that Ray’s comments came in response to the front page article, “Lawmakers plead for state to widen Hwy. 19“, in the June 21-22, 2008 Northfield News. The article was illustrated with a picture of out-going City Administrator Al Roder with his quote, “It’s not good enough to be on their list. We need this to move forward.”
My first involvement with Highway 19 came about four years ago. The NDDC, at the request of then Chamber of Commerce President Robert Bierman, had agreed to support local efforts on achieving long-discussed improvements to the road. When I admitted that I had no background on the subject, Robert suggested that I get my hands on a copy of the Northfield Industrial Corporation’s July 2000 study, “A Recommendation for Improvements in Safety, Access and Quality of Life Issues for Northfield Transportation”. After striking out with a couple of prominent organizations in town, I finally got a copy…from Ray.
It is, in my opinion, an extremely valuable collection of information. I have brought it up, and distributed summaries, at two or three Comp Plan work sessions and at least one of the Transportation Advisory Committee meetings. Of particular interest to me is the fold-out map that is appended to the report. It illustrates the top twelve priority transportation projects for Northfield. But more on those later.
After educating myself thanks to Ray’s copy of the NIC Transportation study, I ended up having meetings with a number of people, including then State Representative Ray Cox, then Council Member Dixon Bond, and a small conference room full of MNDoT folks. All of them said, repeatedly, that any progress on Highway 19 would have to be part of a plan that encompassed all of Northfield’s transportation network, including connections to and from Highway 19 as well as northern and southern alternatives to Highway 19.
The twelve priority transportation projects in the NIC study are all about those connections and alternatives. When we discussed them as part of a Comp Plan work session, at best you could suggest that we’ve addressed one and half of the twelve. At that rate, it will take far more than ten years to complete all twelve projects.
At the close of the article, Roder states, according to the Northfield News, that “being the squeaky wheel is a good start..but that if the city could help with funding, he believes MnDOT would give the project an even more favored status”. Based on what I’ve heard from elected officials and MNDoT staff, I think that instead of squeaks and funds for Highway 19, we might be more successful if we came forward with schedules and budgets for elements of the broader transportation network.
Steadily and systematically addressing long-identified local transportation needs would just be an added benefit.
I don’t remember what year it was revamped and made narrow. (Anyone?) And I don’t remember which city staffers were instrumental in the change. But I do remember hearing lots of complaints about it after it was done, eg, from farmers about its inaccessibility for large farm equipment.
I don’t use the Parkway during school rush hours so I don’t know if it works well during those times. But it otherwise seems to work and the traffic-calming aspects of a narrow roadway seems to work, too.
A 1980 annexation agreement with Waterford, the smallest of the four townships surrounding Northfield, doesn’t allow annexation without the township board of supervisors’ approval. In 28 years, Waterford has agreed to one annexation: 20 acres off Sheldahl Road, which allows Sheldahl, now Multek, to relocate. A three-page typewritten agreement not only says the city can’t annex Waterford property without its approval, but must forever pay the township, north of the city just across the Dakota County line on Hwy. 3, for taxes lost in the annexation.
As Northfield looks to expand its tax base and as discussions of a new business park continue, the city needs to examine all its annexation agreements to see whether they’re still wise to continue or if they should be renegotiated. The city should start with Waterford.
As the price of gas keeps escalating, I’m starting to see a lot more bikes downtown, including more weird ones like the Xtracycle that I blogged about last week.
Left: the crowded bike rack in front of the Goodbye Blue Monday on Tues. morn around 7 am. Center: my wife’s Giant Revive, a super comfy bike (lumbar support!) for around-town/bike trail riding Right: an E-Go electric cycle
As for how the price of gas has been changing my life:
I’ve been taking the Revive to get to my morning coffeehouse offices in the past week, once I figured out how to easily haul my laptop on it.
We’ve gone to two movies in the past 3 weeks, both at Northfield’s Southgate theater instead of driving to the Lakeville 21.
As I mentioned at the tail end of our podcast a couple of weeks ago, I’m thinking that a little civil disobedience might be in order in re the outdoor dining situation in Northfield.
Let’s pick a date and stage a “sit-out”! The restaurants in town could put out tables and chairs, citizens would be encouraged to bring their lawn chairs downtown and we’d fill up the sidewalks. If we got enough of the businesses to participate, I doubt that the City Council would hold their liquor license renewals hostage, or whatever consequences are being dreamed up for violating our current prohibitions.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen….. lend me your chairs. Any takers? Suggested dates?
Someone has a new Xtracycle (sport utility bicycle) here in Northfield:
Imagine your favorite bike, with the rear wheel stretched out behind the seat, a big, stable platform for a load or a passenger, and elegant saddlebags on either side that are expandable when you need them and are cleanly out of the way when you don’t. Best of all, your bike is still lightweight and fast, and because the load is centered between your two wheels, the whole package handles with ease. Suddenly you have much less need or desire to drive around town for your errands. Picture this: a breezy unloaded ride to your favorite grocery store, coasting reliably around corners; arriving ahead of traffic; parking at the rack directly in front of the entrance; shopping and easily loading your four bags of groceries; then pedaling home, care-free on a bike that handles just as swiftly now that it’s loaded.
Some very sad news – a pedestrian was killed, and another injured, this morning at the intersection of Hwy 246 (Division Street) and Jefferson Parkway. Names have not yet been released. Both the Northfield News and the StarTribune have reported on the incident.
The intersection is under review as part of a $30,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant awarded last month to the city and its Non-motorized Transportation Task Force. The task force, in its grant application, said that the intersection, which is adjacent to three schools, is unsafe.
I’m sure Bill Ostrem and others on the Task Force will keep us apprised of the developments. It is truly sad that it often seems to take a tragedy of some magnitude to get people’s attention about pedestrian and bicycle safety, and make them realize that streets aren’t just for cars and trucks.