We need a Jefferson Road bikeway

Northfielder, Ole, and web designer Sean Hayford O’Leary has put up a web page titled We need a Jefferson Road Bikeway

His introduction:

Jefferson Road, once a rural route from Northfield to Dundas, is now the only city street that follows the same route as South Highway 3. As Highway 3 has a high speed limit and almost no nonmotorized accommodations, Jefferson Road has become a popular bikeway for accessing the southwest corner of Northfield, including retail areas at Target and Heritage Square. This document discusses Jefferson Road from West Jefferson Parkway to Hidden Valley Road, which is being resurfaced in 2011.

Jefferson Road’s resurfacing and associated issues are before the Northfield City Council. See:

The issue was on the agenda for this week’s (June 14) Council work session. See pages 4-6 of the packet, as it contained this information about extending the bike/walking trail:

Trail – Staff was asked to consider extension of the trail that ends at 1605 Heritage Drive (Community Resource Bank property). Because of the time constraints for providing this information, a complete evaluation could not be completed. However, some preliminary information is provided below.

  • For the purposes of this review it was assumed that the trail would be extended from the current dead end, north along the east boundary of TH3 to Jefferson Parkway. The length of trail is approximately 4,500 feet. Alternate alignment options should be considered if this option moves forward.
  • Section 5 of the Comprehensive Transportation Plan provides preliminary planning costs for various types of transportation improvements. Basic trail is estimated about $150,000 per mile. The basic cost only includes minimal grading, subbase and trail surface. Special project needs such as property acquisition, easements, soil corrections, etc. are not included. This segment of trail is estimated to cost more than $130,000.
  • Location of the trail in the ROW of TH3 would require coordination with MnDOT and acquisition of appropriate use permits.
  • Location of the trail on private property would require coordination with MnDOT and acquisition of appropriate use permits.
  • Location of the trail on private property would require acquisition of permanent trail easements along with temporary construction easements.
  • Most of the residential lots are wooded along the west property line. Tree loss is expected to be needed to accomplish this trail. Until a survey is completed to define property boundaries in relation to tree locations, a true impact cannot be determined.

See Sean’s analysis and proposed solutions and chime in here with your questions and reactions.


  1. Anthony Pierre said:


    you don’t even have to cross highway 3. you can go under the 5th street bridge.

    June 17, 2011
  2. Evan Larkin said:

    As a person who grew up in this area, I agree with Sean. I’d love to see this happen.

    June 17, 2011
  3. Dan Bergeson said:

    This is an excellent idea and well-presented. Much less expensive and more immediate solution than adding a trail on the east side of HWY 3. There are other streets in Northfield with similar potential for encouraging cyclists to feel safe. I’ve suggested to City staff for years that Lincoln Street on the west side could be striped with bike lanes from Greenvale all the way to Cannon Valley Road and then Cannon Valley Road to North Avenue. These are streets with virtually no parked cars. All it would take is some paint and a few signs.

    June 17, 2011
  4. John Thomas said:

    A little paint, and Northfield would be a better place. Great Job Sean!

    June 18, 2011
  5. Bonnie Jean Flom said:

    As always, Sean’s thoroughness, thoughtfulness, and intelligence are shining through. I keep hoping he’ll run for office someday. His commitment to positive civic engagement should be inspiring to us all.

    June 18, 2011
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    An update on the bike trail and sidewalks along Jefferson Road:

    Nfld News: Road assessments may drop

    The council also agreed to consider adding sidewalks to the west side of the roadway — from 1600 to 1912 Jefferson Road. The concrete walkways would add another $63,000 to the nearly $300,000 project. But those costs cannot be passed down property owners.

    The council also decided to forego adding the construction of a paved trail along Hwy. 3 to the project. The trail could cost as much as $260,000 and could bog down the project, said Gehler. To complete the trail, the city would need to obtain some property, remove trees, rework a retaining wall, all which would take a significant chunk of time.

    June 19, 2011
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    It would seem to be a good idea for someone to attend the Council meeting this week and speak to this issue of the need for a bikeway along Jefferson Road.

    June 19, 2011
  8. Thank you all for your support. I regret that I am out of town until mid-August, and can’t attend the upcoming Council meeting, but am hopeful that a representative from St. Olaf Green Bikes will be there.

    Just before leaving town, I got an anonymous letter from a Jefferson resident (signed “A Taxpaying Resident”). It starts:

    Mr. O’Leary:
    You state that my street is a critical bikeway from downtown to Cub/Target/multi banks, but did you know that you can take actual bike trails that go by the schools and thru neighborhood parks? This will bring you out behind Target. If you are leaving from St. Olaf Avenue, why not take the bike trail that goes to Dundas? I have never seen anyone use the new bike bridge over the Cannon River, but if you took that you could take the frontage road all the way to the Target light. Maybe you can convince the powers that be to finish the actual bike trail that goes from County Road 1 to behind the church, where it abruptly ends.

    Of course, I would prefer to address the homeowner’s concerns directly, but with no return address or name, I’ve instead responded to the letter in full here.

    June 20, 2011
  9. Griff Wigley said:


    How did you respond to the other residents who contacted you?

    June 20, 2011
  10. Two were emails, and the other was a phone call. Neither e-mail made as many general claims as that letter, but simply described that resident’s need for parking. Both e-mail writers expressed support for a compromise solution that would allow for some parking on the street. Neither was totally opposed to a bikeway. My only responses generally clarified, for example, why sidewalk bicycling was not generally a good idea and was not a substitute for a safe space to bike northbound.

    The phone call, we talked for about 10 minutes. She was not supportive of a bikeway, but her main concern was the assessments. We went back and forth for a while… I tried to explain the use of the road, particularly for college students — but really for all residents — as safe, nonmotorized access to Target/Cub/Heritage Square. I don’t think I really convinced her, but again, she seemed most concerned with lowering her assessment, certainly a reasonable point of view for someone living on the road.

    June 20, 2011
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld Patch: Jefferson Road Residents Get Reprieve on Assessments

    Some residents attending the meeting also opposed the construction of nearly 2,000 feet of sidewalk along the road, citing privacy concerns. They also universally opposed removing on-street parking in favor of a bicycle lane, an option for reconstruction to be decided by councilors later in the project.

    Outgoing city engineer Katy Gehler said repairs on the road could be finished in early October.

    June 22, 2011
  12. Jane McWilliams said:

    Re: you comment in #7, Griff, I sent the following note to the council late last week:

    It has come to my attention, thanks to the work of Sean Hayford O’Leary, that there is a practical way to achieve the goal you set last week for including both parking and space for bike routes on Jefferson Road. You may have seen this web site where he blogs about bicycling on Jefferson Road and suggests several solutions. http://sdho.org/i/f/2011/06/jefferson/

    I hope that you will ask staff to create “shared lanes.” This would allow space for the low volume parking which is traditional on that street, and it would create a safe lane for cyclists. Moreover, it would make a less confusing configuration for motorists, as the center line would be in the center, rather than skewed to one side as it has been all these years.

    Attached is a diagram Sean sent me which I hope will help you see that the shared lane solution is the right one.

    Councilor Erica Zweifel responded: “We already directed staff to do this at our last work session.”

    June 22, 2011
  13. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, that’s great to hear. Thanks so much for doing that. Any idea on which staffer at City Hall will be most involved with this since Katy Gehler is leaving soon?

    June 23, 2011
  14. To be clear, Erica meant that the council directed staff to research/present details of the shared lane option, which was shown last night at the council meeting (thanks to KYMN for the very helpful streaming). Well, actually, no such diagram was shown; the consultant from Bolton-Menk simply copied and pasted some diagrams from the Mn/DOT Bikeways Manual into a PowerPoint.

    What was shown looks pretty bad, though: it is essentially the same setup as it is now, with a striped parking lane and an offset center line. The only difference would be a few “share the road” signs — those aren’t a bad thing, but, of course, you should always share the road! 😉

    This may be a limit of being a Municipal State Aid street, but the consultant did indicate that exceptions are possible. I still feel very strongly that a striped parking lane is damaging to a bikeway and unhelpful on a street with very few parked cars at any given time. Staff clearly indicated that bike lanes (no parking) would have the best traffic calming effect, which was a major concern of residents.

    June 23, 2011
  15. Griff Wigley said:

    It seems to me that the Council needs to ramp up its public engagement with residents along Jefferson Road soon. Otherwise, many people are going to be unhappy, no matter what gets decided with parking/bike lanes.

    June 24, 2011
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld Patch: Jefferson Road plans chosen

    After a discussion on the merits of different road styles and the safety trade-offs of each, councilors voted to remake Jefferson Road, a collector street in the near south of the city, to be organized into two traffic lanes with a striped bicycle lane on its east side. Other options included a scheme with a single stripe parking lane and another with bike lanes on each side of the road.

    Mayor Mary Rossing dissented, worrying that the 11-foot lanes would be too narrow, that bicycle lane stripes would cause confusion, and that the design did not allow easy reconstruction if the approved plan failed.

    Now approved, construction of the 3/4-mile street, left unrepaired for two decades, will start in August and is scheduled to end in October.

    July 9, 2011
  17. The final design is quite unusual and not a great bikeway, but I think the council had the right spirit in mind, and I’m hopeful it’ll be well-used.

    To clarify, if north is up, what they voted for was:


    The idea being that bicycles will ride in the 8′ parking lane going south and the 5′ bicycle lane going north. I’m not sympathetic to Mayor Rossing’s concerns about width. They’re stripes, not guard rails — if, once in a blue moon, a really wide truck needs to use the road, the exact location of the paint on the pavement doesn’t matter all that much.

    In any case, I do think this is a good gesture of the council’s and a solid step in the right direction. I also am very pleased that the council approved the completion of the west-side sidewalk. This means continuous sidewalk coverage on both sides all the way from W Jefferson Pkwy to Roosevelt Ridge Rd/Cty 1.

    July 9, 2011