How to fund a trail connecting downtown to the west side via the Hwy 3 underpass

The City of Northfield has applied for $1 million of federal money (Tiger Grant) to construct a pedestrian trail that would connect downtown to the west side.  The proposed route would connect to Greenvale Ave. and St. Olaf Ave via the Hwy. 3 underpass at North Water St. The City must contribute $500K to the project.

At last night’s City Council meeting, Councilors evidently decided that half the cost of trail would come from the downtown fund, according to the Northfield News, with the It’s not clear from the article where the other half would come from. “remainder coming from city reserves.” It’s also not clear what this would do to the prioritized list of other projects that the downtown Streetscape Task Force has identified for funding with money from that downtown fund, especially parking. See NDDC Executive Director Ross Currier’s Oct. 5 blog post: TIF District #4, The Streetscape Task Force, and Downtown Parking.

There is currently enough revenue projected for the TIF District to pay for the Task Force’s long-standing recommendations as well as the City Council’s recent additions. Downtown stakeholders hope that the long-needed parking project will continue to move forward and that this economically critical investment in downtown will be implemented before the TIF District expires.

See pages 68-72 of the Council packet (PDF).  It contains a map of the route but streets aren’t marked. Here’s my live Google Map with the approximate route:

View Greenvale/St. Olaf/Hwy 3 underpass & walkway in a larger map


  1. I really would like to see the connection from Greenvale Ave made, but I’m not happy that St. Olaf Ave is included as it is. The intersection of St. Olaf Ave and N Hwy 3 is in a 30 mph zone, and now feels particularly urban because of the Crossing commercial buildings at that corner. It is inexcusable for cars to not yield to pedestrians at this point; guiding them to this grades-separated crossing is an enormous inconvenience for pedestrians, for the sole benefit of drivers. For St. Olaf Ave, it takes a ~1-minute walk and turned it into a 6+-minute walk. Some money should be dedicated (separate from this grant) to improving that crossing — painting a marked crosswalk, adding backup signage, constructing refuge islands, etc.

    The underpass is, again, great for Greenvale Ave. It is relatively convenient to walk or bike from that point. And everyone will benefit from completing the riverside trail. I do hope the City gets the grant.

    October 19, 2011
  2. Arlen Malecha said:

    Sean –
    Hwy 3 & St. Olaf is not a designated crossing and personally I don’t think it should become one. Many poeple risk their lives by trying to cross four lanes of traffic at this intersection but it far to dangerous with the number of vehicles headed south over the viaduct. I don’t think it is unreasonable for folks to go one block farther to the south to cross at the Second St. light & designated crosswalk.

    Every so often I walk downtown from my house over towards the Greenvale school area and I don’t have an issue walking over to the Second St. intersection to cross the highway. I can’t imagine that this would be a major issue for anyone else either. You say “It is inexcusable for cars to not yield to pedestrians at this point …”. I say it is inexcusable to spend $500K or $1M of city / government money on this project when there is a designated crosswalk at Second St.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for folks walking & biking and want them to be safe doing so but I don’t feel this project is worthy of the money being discussed.

    October 19, 2011
  3. Arlen:
    Re: St. Olaf Ave. You’re right, it’s not a designated crossing. That’s the nature of my complaint. Drivers are legally obligated to stop for pedestrians at intersections, regardless of crosswalk marking — so if people are “risking their lives,” it’s due to driver behavior and poor design. The design of this particular intersection does not indicate the pedestrian right-of-way provided by law; essentially, it incites drivers to break the law. The City and Mn/DOT have the power to fix that. The Malt-O-Meal crossings are highly effective, even though that portion of Hwy 19 has an equivalent traffic count and a higher speed limit. They’re ugly, they smack drivers over the head with warning, but they work. Going the 2nd Street (which is two Northfield blocks away, not one) is fine for some users, but should they wish to access the Crossing or N Water St, that’s a four block detour. The eastside sidewalk is also better and safer, since the westside one is littered with busy driveway accesses.

    Re: TIGER proposal. The main issue here is that the Greenvale Ave and Fremouw Ave crossings are not viable as Hwy 3 is currently designed. These are in a 40 mph zone with no median. (Cars are still obligated to stop, and they should, but creating an effective design here is more challenging.) Pedestrians must cross the street at this point, because there is no sidewalk along the west side of the viaduct. This leaves them to scurry across the street at Greenvale Ave, or bushwhack down to the railroad tracks. There are a significant number of pedestrians who live in the Viking Terrace, Florella’s, and Northfield estates. Had the original viaduct design accomodated these users, this wouldn’t be necessary. Instead, because of the original neglect, we’re left with a costly solution.

    October 19, 2011
  4. kiffi summa said:

    Thanks, Sean, for your always careful analysis.

    I would like to add that living on St. Olaf avenue as I do, I am often at the St. Olaf/Hwy 3 intersection, facing east, waiting to turn right to go to the Downtown.

    There is inadequate police monitoring of the speeds of cars heading south, from north of that intersection, i.e. coming over the viaduct, and it is often difficult to even make a right turn.

    I would hope that one of the electronic speed monitoring signs would be left there for months, so as to train the drivers using that route to obey the speed limit; and combine it with some aggressive ticketing.

    I regularly see people in motorized wheelchairs crossing there, and they are at grave risk.

    October 19, 2011
  5. john george said:

    Sean- It may very well be inexcusable for cars to not yield to pedestrians at the Olaf crossing, but, considering that 1)there is not a designated pedestrian crossing there; 2) there is no signage along the bridge to forwarn motorists, especially those only passing through, and 3) there is hardly even a half block of clear view of the intersection from the south end of the bridge, it would seem to me that trying to force a crosswalk there is like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. This is a case where it might be wiser to put a blockade at the end of the sidewalk warning, “NOT A PEDESTRIAN CROSSING.” I don’t really feel safe turning left onto Hwy 3 from Greenvale in my van if there is any traffic closer than the Dairy Queen. I have been nearly rear-ended by southbound traffic while I am still on the bridge, and I am in a mini-van, for crying out in the night! Cars are often going over 40 mph on that stretch north of Greenvale, and some of them don’t slow down until they get to the 2nd. Street light. And, I will add that I often see police cars there checking traffic speeds both directions. With the viaduct and the curve there, there is some really problematic road design to overcome. Unfortunately, a pedestrian is whistling past the graveyard to try to cross there.

    October 19, 2011
  6. But again, John, the point of marking a crossing is to make drivers aware of the possibility of pedestrians in advance of the crosswalk. With a couple of helpful volunteers this summer, I did crossing tests of Hwy 3/3rd St and 5th St/Orchard St (at Malt-O-Meal). A tiny minority of cars yielded correctly at 3rd St (which has no markings), but 75% of the cars yielded at Malt-O-Meal. The subjects, as instructed, were very timid. I suspect a more assertive walker would have gotten closer to 95%. My point is that these warnings work, even when people feel like they’re driving in a highway context.

    As for the way the crossing is now, there do appear to have been 2 non-fatal crashes between 1998-2003 at St. Olaf Avenue. That was, however, before the significant reconstruction of downtown Hwy 3, which gives it a far more urban feel. I’d also note that the overwhelming majority of crashes are on less-busy S Hwy 3.

    The trouble with “no ped crossing” signs is that they don’t really address the problem. If a ped needs to cross, they’re still going to cross. All the sign does is allow officials and engineers to throw up their hands and say, “hey, we put up a sign! we made it safe!” when someone is hit. And quite basically, we wanted Hwy 3 downtown to feel like downtown — having peds crossing is a good problem to have. It’s wrong to reduce them to the status of freight trains if it’s not absolutely necessary. (But again, as iterated in #3, I do absolutely think this is beneficial for users coming from the north.)

    October 19, 2011
  7. john george said:

    Sean- The “urban” feel of Hwy 3 beyond St. Olaf is possible because there is real estate there allowing building. The viaduct precludes any building there, so I question that an urban feel is characteristic of that part of the road.

    Also, if pedestrians are going to flaunt common sense directions at a dangerous intersection, how much hope do we have for hedonistic people weilding a 2 ton vehicle over that viaduct to drive with any sense? The state laws giving pedestrians rights of way at intersections are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they give motorists an incentive to yield to them. On the other hand, they seem to give pedestrians a false sense of security that every driver coming down the road actually sees them and will yield.

    I will make this observation about the visibility down the road as drivers approach the Hwy 3 bridge. The only thing visible beyond the bridge at the Greenvale intersection is the Crossings building straight in front of you. It would seem to indicate that the road is going to change somehow so that you don’t drive into the building. This must not register with many drivers as it seems they are still going 40+ at the south end of the bridge. So much for plain old common sense driving.

    I still agree with Arlen in that the amount of money it would take to make a safe crossing at St. Olaf Ave. is a questionable investment for the return it would provide.

    October 19, 2011
  8. Dan Bergeson said:

    I’m assuming someone in this process has contacted Union Pacific (Canadian Pacific?) and shared these ideas with them. The proposal is to build a bridge over their tracks and I’m wondering if there is enough clearance to go over the trains and under the Hwy 3 overpass. Talk about threading a needle!

    October 19, 2011
  9. Jane McWilliams said:

    Griff – Half of the $500,000 will come from TIF Funds with the justification being that the trail will increase connectivity to the downtown from points north and west. The other half will come from the General Fund fund balance.

    October 19, 2011
  10. Dan: The rail company has been involved — that’s why the trail does not cross the railroad on the west side of Hwy 3, but rather brings users to the existing crossing on N Water St. There is no bridge over the railroad — only trails adjacent, and the existing on-grade crossing.

    October 20, 2011
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Jane… I missed the phrase “remainder coming from city reserves” in the Nfld News story. I’ve amended my blog post above.

    October 20, 2011
  12. Griff Wigley said:

    Dan, are you still on the Streetscape Task Force?

    If so:

    * what does this do to the list of prioritized projects?
    * did the City Council consult with the task force about this $250K?

    October 20, 2011
  13. Dan Bergeson said:

    Ah, I didn’t understand that. In that case, is there enough space adjacent to the tracks to satisfy the railroad’s easement issues? The trail won’t meet the crossing until it’s traveled several dozen yards alongside the rails.

    October 20, 2011
  14. Dan Bergeson said:

    It would mean adjusting the available funds for other projects on the list or eliminating some. Our budget numbers are merely estimates and so there’s some flexibility in reallocating funds among projects. An example would be that there’s a placeholder for partially funding the trail extension on the east side of the river past it’s current endpoint behind the Village School. This was a City Council suggestion in the first place and so the Task Force could say that it no longer supports using the money for that project since the Council decided to spend money on a trail in a different location.

    The City Council is the ultimate authority on actually dispersing the Streetscape money and yes, the Task Force was apprised of the possible use of Streetscape funding for the Greenvale trail.

    October 20, 2011
  15. Hmm not sure. Erica Zweifel would know for sure.

    My understanding is that it is being built within railroad ROW, and that this option is what was satisfactory to the rail company. The rail track is currently abandoned, but this trail does not preclude it being used again someday, and it does not create a new crossing point.

    October 20, 2011
  16. Bruce Morlan said:

    I presume that a simple (west) straight ramp-overpass-spiral ramp (east side) at StOlaf and MN3 has been ruled out as too expensive? Since pedestrians have to descend anyway, since there is essentially no pedestrian friendly business in the northwest corner of the intersection and since StOlaf Ave seems (on an early Friday or Saturday evening) to be a major walkway across town, that would seem a worthy thing to get StOlaf and Carleton (less so) to help fund. It would be useful to put such information at the top of this discussion. A cursory check (Google) shows estimats in the %500K to $4M range for pedestrian overpasses.

    October 20, 2011
  17. As in, a bridge that runs along the viaduct, crosses Hwy 3 at St. Olaf Ave, then descends by the crossing? The critical point of this is connecting Greenvale Ave, which is a regular flow.

    I’m still opposed to new grade separations. To my knowledge, Hwy 3 downtown has never had a true, proper on-grade crossing. Why we would rule it out when similar crossings (Hwy 19 at Malt-O-Meal) work effectively is beyond me. The crosswalk at 3rd St was once marked, but other measures — refuge islands, standard advances warning signs, flashing lights — have never been attempted. On-grade crossings are cheaper, lower-maintenance, calm traffic, and are more convenient for pedestrians (especially the elderly). And they make downtown feel like downtown — not like a freeway.

    October 20, 2011
  18. Dan and Griff:
    Yes we were apprised, were we consulted, no. I stated at the last ST meeting, that I was very upset with the pace of the Council on the parking lot issue and on these other projects, i.e. the underpass and the Basils project possibility, always coming up and saying, oh yes we can use ST money to fund them.

    Yes, the Council is the ultimate authority on spending the dollars, but they formed the ST to come up with recommendations and we have done that. Now, that there are other projects that the Council wants done, I guess I wasted the last 1.5 years coming up with a list of projects and meeting with people. To me it seems like we are not being listened to.

    I am probably being over critical but I haven’t had enough coffee and my scanner is not working, so this is the issue I wanted to vent on.

    October 20, 2011
  19. Patrick Enders said:

    Clearly-marked crossings on Highway 3, like the ones on Hwy 19 at MOM, would greatly enhance the walkability of the near east side.

    October 20, 2011
  20. David Ludescher said:

    I’m with Arlen. It is irresponsible to spend $1.0 million on this project regardless of which part of the government is paying; it is all taxpayer money.

    October 20, 2011
  21. Bruce Morlan said:

    So, I talked with a bridge building firm and they suggested that a bridge like I described (basically lifting the StOlaf Ave sidewalk on the west side to go over the road, then spiral ramp down on the Crossing side) would cost about $1.5M. I think that option should be considered, especially since I think it would get used more regularly than a path that takes people already on StOlaf Ave out of their way (north and south).

    As for crossing markings, sorry guys, it is pretty pollyannaish to think you can make that blind intersection safe just by painting lines and putting up signs. Coming south on MN3 over the viaduct and down that curve into the city is dangerous enough for cars, I would not want to see the city experiment with pedestrian lives by trying.

    October 20, 2011
  22. Bruce: Simply put, avoiding crosswalk markings does not make the pedestrians go away. People cross here already; markings would clarify right-of-way, and — if well-designed — slow cars in advance of the intersection. I would also note for 3rd Street, there is absolutely no excuse — it is clearly visible for three blocks in either direction — but the idea of a marked crosswalk there has also been dismissed as unsafe.

    The bridge you describe would be reasonable, but, again, I think there are more pedestrians coming from the north (Greenvale Ave). Since they don’t even have the option of crossing at the 2nd St light, those pedestrians need to be the first priority.

    October 20, 2011
  23. john george said:

    Sean- I just don’t understand this refusal to address pedestrian control at this intersection instead of driver control. Do you really think that people would bypass a barrier with warning signage? If they can’t learn a simple task such as “Dangerous! Do Not Cross Highway!”, then what hope do you have for drivers aproaching a blind intersection to suddenly come to a stop? I agree with Bruce. I think it is polyannaish thinking and setting up a dangerous scenario.

    October 20, 2011
  24. John,
    As it is now, drivers are breaking the law at this intersection — not pedestrians. Pedestrians can certainly do illegal things too — for example, they are not allowed to cross between intersections, if both adjacent intersections are traffic lights. If we had a widespread problem with this occurring (let’s say scurrying across Hwy 3 between Woodley and Jefferson), then pedestrian controls might be appropriate. As it is now, you’re suggesting we ought to take away (or at least strongly discoure exercise of) rights of one party, when the other party is the problem.

    The best way to balance this is to provide an option that is more convenient than what we perceive as dangerous. A bridge like Bruce suggests might be that option, if well-designed. But I think that would come at a major aesthetic expense to downtown Northfield — and would increase vehicle speed, because it makes downtown Hwy 3 feel even more highway-like. A Puffin crossing is also convenient enough that people would use it, but relies less on driver’s goodwill. There are a lot of options, but as with any facility, convenience will affect behavior. This balance occurs even for drivers. The book Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt talks about a standard “max waiting time” (I forget exactly what it is — 90-120 seconds or something) for red lights. There is a max, even when a longer time is more efficient for traffic flow, because drivers will run red lights if they have to wait unreasonably long. Likewise, putting up a “no ped” sign and expecting a pedestrian to walk many blocks out of his/her way is going to result in defiance.

    October 20, 2011
  25. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s a large PDF version (9MB) of the Proposed Connections TIGR Grant map that was in the council packet. Even tho there’s no legend, it allows you to zoom in to see the nuances of the proposed trail (eg, the proposed bridge on Greenvale).

    October 21, 2011
  26. Griff Wigley said:


    I can understand why the Council thinks this trail is an appropriate use of downtown TIF/Streetscape Taskforce money.

    But it would seem that they’d want to maintain a good working relationship with the Streetscape Taskforce so to do this without consultation seems like poor human relations. They may not ultimately AGREE with you but they should at least LISTEN to the extent that y’all feel understood.

    October 21, 2011
  27. Sean, could you clarify which drivers (direction of travel) are breaking what law at what intersection? Thanks.

    October 21, 2011
  28. Bruce:
    Drivers in both directions at N Hwy 3 and W St Olaf Ave are breaking MN 169.21, Subd. 2(a). Many also violate subd. 2(b). Were people consistently following this law, we wouldn’t have all this talk of new crossings and pedestrian bridges.

    October 21, 2011
  29. Griff’s link helped a lot, the overhead is much better at explaining the proposal. But I turn from StOlaf onto southbound MN3 all the time and I find it unnerving to see southbound traffic coming down that hill. I wonder if Sean and a couple of the discussants here should meet there this weekend to physically review the situation? Some on-site review with the council packet overhead would help clarify a lot of this discussion. I plan to by in that area about 5:25 Friday and may take some photos.

    I feel like pedestrians on Greenvale could be gently redirected to go south to StOlaf Avenue then both groups could cross MN3 at the StOlaf Ave crossing.

    Any thoughts of putting an on-grade crossing at the Greenvale intersection would be arguably a bad idea, the thought of a line of cars, all stopped, facing uphill on an icy road is not pleasant. And I stand by the idea that an on-grade crossing at StOlaf Ave and MN3 is arguably a bad idea for pedestrians.

    October 21, 2011
  30. john george said:

    Sean- The law is all fine and dandy, but I think you are ignoring the facts of the intersection involved. 1) There is not good visibility of the intersection from the bridge, especially for visitors who are not familiar with the roads. The crossings at MOM are visible from several blocks in each direction. 2) It is an observed fact that drivers have not slowed to the posted 30 mph on the bridge. Cripes, drivers driving 70 on Interstate 35 are an impediment to the ambient traffic flow. In this country, law has become a concept of what can be gotten away with rather than the social organizer that laws are intended to be. I still say you are trying to stop Niagra Falls with a teacup when you try to impose this law at this intersection.

    October 21, 2011
  31. Thanks Sean. To clarify:

    169.21 PEDESTRIAN.

    (a) Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped. No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield. This provision shall not apply under the conditions as otherwise provided in this subdivision.

    (b) When any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

    October 21, 2011
  32. john george said:

    Sean- According to this table-, a truck should be able to stop within 123′ @ 30 mph. If you note, 5 mph adds 30′ to the stopping distance. If a southbound truck going the speed limit on the bridge (unlikely, but for discussion’s sake) comes upon a line of 3 cars stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, will the driver be able to stop in time without hitting the cars? In theory, he should be able to to stop, but real life is not a theory. I question the wisdom of attempting a crossing at this point in lieu of the risks involved, even with flashing lights and grumble strips.

    October 21, 2011
  33. Dan Bergeson said:

    That rail line is definitely not abandoned. Progressive Rail uses it occasionally to run to Randolph/Cannon Falls. And if memory serves, the Mill Towns Trail once planned to use this rail ROW to go east out of Northfield, but couldn’t get the rail owner (either Canadian Pacific I think) to agree because of liability concerns. I wonder if they’ve actually consented to this latest idea. You’re right, I should contact Erica.

    October 21, 2011
  34. kiffi summa said:

    There comes a time when we can continue to talk about walk/bikeability for our community, and then a time to stop talking … and DO some things that bring forward a concerted all over town effort.

    As much as there are strong multi-modal advocates on the Council, when these decisions come up the Councilors are always fighting old engineering standards; witness the struggle over the reclamation of Jefferson Road.

    As far as cars coming south over the viaduct towards the St. Olaf intersection that needs to be attended to immediately!
    What are all those Police cars doing lined up behind the Safety Center? Ticket cars speeding on Hwy 3…

    I hope with a new Public Works director on Staff, we can have a more productive discussion of an overall policy for Northfield, instead of having to deal with every situations as: Cars w/people versus People on foot/bikes.

    October 21, 2011
  35. John:
    There may be issues with cars stopping. I guess I would trust an engineer’s judgement on that, and their thoughts on if adequate warning signs or other traffic-calming measures could work in advance. However, I would be a lot more sympathetic to these issues if cars’ physical ability to stop were the problem. If cars were really trying their damndest to screech to a halt for the safe crossing of pedestrians, but just couldn’t quite do it, that would be one thing. But that’s not the case. Right now, the problem is the false impression that the current intersection design gives — that cars don’t have any obligation to stop.

    I would note, again, that marked crossings have also been dismissed at 3rd St, even though there are no issues with slope or visibility.

    I do acknowledge that there are places where marked, on-grade crossings are not viable. A student from my high school (ARTECH) was seriously injured crossing Hwy 3 at Heritage Drive, in the then-55 mph portion of the roadway. As currently designed (very wide, very fast, poor lighting, no sidewalks), that portion cannot easily support an on-grade crossing. Individually, cars are still obligated to stop, but collectively, it’s not good to rely on it. I’m inclined to agree with Bruce that the Greenvale Ave crossing is the same way — in a 40 mph zone, on an unnecessarily wide roadway, with no median. The crossing at St. Olaf Ave is in a lower speed zone, has several traffic-calming mechanisms (bike lanes, narrower lane width, pedestrian-scale lighting), and a more urban feel. I do believe on-grade is the right solution there.

    October 21, 2011
  36. Arlen Malecha said:

    I have spent some time thinking about this issue and have come to the conclusion that in my mind this underpass is not needed. I could see putting a Malt-O-Meal type crossing at Greenvale Ave as there fairly good visibility for vehicle traffic to see the flashing lights, crosswalk signs etc from a distance. To try and put a crosswalk at St. Olaf is fool-hearty best as this intersection lacks the visibility of drivers to slow down or stop especially when coming from the North.

    I do not like the underpass for several reasons. 1) Money, money, money. I think the price tag is too high. 2) A sense of security. During the day it may not be a problem but in the dark hours I don’t think people will feel safe using the underpass. 3) I think it will give our grafitti artists a blank canvas and then we will spend more money cleaning it up.

    A crossing at Hwy 3 & Greenvale Ave coupled with the crossing at Second St provides plenty of safe crossing for pedestrian traffic. I don’t see the need for a crossing at Hwy 3 & St. Olaf nor do I see a need to invest in the underpass.

    As citizens of this great nation we need to quit expecting Cities, States & the Nation to provide everything for everyone. Our tax dollars can only goes so far. I don’t think it is asking too much of a pedestrian to cross at Greenvale Ave (if & when a marked crossing is installed), Second St or Fifth St. Yes a pedestrians may have to travel a blosk or two out of their way but we all have to make sacrafices at some point.

    October 21, 2011
  37. Patrick Enders said:

    I expect that a high percentage of pedestrians wishing to cross Hwy. 3 at St. Olaf will just keep crossing there; the proposed path is quite circuitous compared to the quicker (if more dangerous) dash across the highway.

    October 21, 2011
  38. Patrick Enders said:

    …which, of course, Sean already mentioned way back in comment #1. Good point, Sean. 🙂

    October 21, 2011
  39. David Ludescher said:


    Thank you for stating the obvious. We already have a very expensive bike trail upon which you can’t ride your bike; we don’t need a $1.0 million pedestrian trail that no one will use.

    October 21, 2011
  40. Jane McWilliams said:

    During the citizens committee study of redesigning Hwy 3 in the 90s, the group recommended a stop light at Greenvale Avenue. Bob Jacobsen chaired that committee and was an articulate advocate for that stoplight and one at 3rd Street. Of course, because it is a state highway, it can’t happen without approval at that level.

    Sean, what do you think about that solution for that intersection? It seems to me it would provide at least as safe a pedestrian crossing as we have at 2nd, 5th, Woodley, and Jefferson Pkwy. Moreover, it would slow down southbound traffic so that they wouldn’t come racing over the viaduct (in spite of the 30 mph sign) and, when it is slippery, threaten the John Johnson’s gas station.

    October 21, 2011
  41. Jane: I certainly wouldn’t be against a traffic light. I think a better long-term approach would be to narrow Hwy 3 north and south of downtown to 1 lane in each direction (plus turn lanes). 20,000 cars/day are where 4 lanes really become necessary — at 9700-15 000 cars a day, Hwy 3 north of the viaduct doesn’t require it. Were it narrowed, it would be easy to install a simple 1-lane roundabout, which doesn’t have the traffic slow-downs of an additional light. The same could be done for Hwy 3 south of Woodley, where lights make that road very inefficient, and high speeds make it dangerous.

    But without making that drastic of a change, I think a light or two would be a great idea. One option would be a PUFFIN crossing (which I linked to earlier) that is only for pedestrians. So there are no slow-downs to Hwy 3 traffic from other cars, which would continue to use the stop signs. Unlike traditional pedestrian crossing lights, a PUFFIN can also detect when the pedestrian is done crossing the street, so traffic doesn’t wait aimlessly for a 45-second cycle when the only pedestrians are long through the intersection. As soon as they’re across safely, cars get a green light.

    October 21, 2011
  42. Jane McWilliams said:

    Sean – Funny you should mention roundabouts. When I made that suggestion to the committee, I got cold stares!

    Because the highway was “redesigned” so relatively recently, I don’t think we can expect anything as radical as you’ve suggested. If the city doesn’t receive the TIGER grant, maybe some of us can start a campaign for a stoplight for Greenvale, and possibly. Third Street.

    October 21, 2011
  43. john george said:

    Sean & Patrick-
    I’m not talking about cars in my post 6.1.10. I’m talking about 80,000 lb. trucks. I don’t have exact percentages, but I would guess that about 1/3 of the traffic on Hwy 3 is truck traffic, especially with all the manufacturing companies that rely on Hwy 3 for shipping access. This time of year, there are a lot of semi’s full of grain headed for the grain elvator, also. An on-grade crossing just doesn’t make sense to me.

    October 21, 2011
  44. Good contingency plan, Jane. If the City is willing to pitch $500k toward this problem now, hopefully they’d be willing to put the same amount toward cheaper crossing solutions, in absence of the grant. No idea what Mn/DOT’s long-terms plans are for 3, but the portion on the north side must be built in the 80s or maybe early 90s — it’s not terribly recent. But definitely outside the scope of what the City can make happen on its own.

    October 21, 2011
  45. I went out and took a look myself today. Pedestrians crossing Hwy 3 at St. Olaf Ave are visible from a southbound car from the change from concrete to asphalt (or at about where the “Bike Lane Ahead” sign is). This is 450 feet from the near crosswalk — that is a full Northfield city block. According to John’s chart, a semi-truck going 10 miles over the speed limit (40 mph) would need 190 feet to stop. That means they have nearly five full seconds — again, going 10 miles over the speed limit — to notice the pedestrian and react.

    October 22, 2011
  46. john george said:

    I was just out over the bridge tonight, also, after dark. In the right hand lane, in my Grand Am, I did not have visibility of the right hand lane where the sidewalk intersects until I was completely off the bridge. A semi driver would have better visibility because of his higher seating position. If he was paying attention, I think (but am only estimating) that he would have visibility of that spot while still on the bridge. If he was only having to stop for a pedestrian, he should be able to do it. Because of the down grade of the roadway, it would take nore that 190′ to stop, since the table values were established on level dry road. If there was a line of even three cars already stopped for a pedestrian, that would take at least 100′ off his available distance to stop, so I think it would be close. If a car was overtaking him on his left, (a highly likely scenarion) that driver would not be able to see either the stopped cars or the pedestrian(s) because of the truck blocking his sight line. Just because the truck is braking would not necessarily register that someone was in the crosswalk. It might be possible for the driver to react in time to stop, but is it worth a person’s life to find out?

    October 22, 2011
  47. Patrick Enders said:

    All drivers are expected to drive at speeds at which they can safely avoid unexpected obstacles. If the semi drivers already can’t see well enough to drive safely, then clearly we would need to slow them down to a speed where they can.

    October 23, 2011
  48. john george said:

    Let’s take a little reality test, although it mught not be applicable in your case, as I don’t know how much you actually drive. If I remeber correctly, you have two toddler age children. Have they ever distracted you when you were driving? Now, a trucker doesn’t normally have toddlers with him. He does have a 40 ton vehicle, articulated in the center, with quite a few more instruments to monitor than the average sedan. Do you suppose, depending on what might be going on at a particular time, the driver might have a distraction? Also, you didn’t mention anything about the passing driver. It seems you and Sean are approaching this from them perspective that everything works perfectly all the time. I wish I had that in my world.

    October 23, 2011
  49. Patrick Enders said:

    I am not arguing that we should simply place stripes on the road, make no other adjustments, and just see what happens.

    As Jane and Sean mention, a crossing light or stoplight would be just one example of a relatively easy civil engineering measure that would facilitate safe crossings at that intersection. There are a whole host of other options, some of which Sean is mentioned above.

    October 23, 2011
  50. john george said:

    Patrick- IMO, a stop light would be the safest solution, especially with the flashing warning lights similar to the ones used at Honey Locust Drive, Co. Rd. 1 and by Menards. That would help offset the visibility issue with southbound traffic. The speed limit on 3 North probably is under the threshold to require one, though, so IMO, that would compromise the application. The obstacle in putting any kind of crossing there is that 3 is a state highway and not under the auspices of the city. If I remember correctly, the City can make a request, but the State has the final say in the matter.

    October 23, 2011
  51. kiffi summa said:

    All the emphasis here on what cars and drivers might or might not do seems to be aside from the main point which was, and is: there is very poor connectivity, in general, from the west side across Hwy 3.
    There are many people seen walking south along the highway, in that area.
    There are several regular motorized wheelchair users in that area.
    There are children on the west side that would like to ride their bikes to the library.
    And on, and on.

    This is about connectivity, and its close ‘relative’, SAFETY.

    Councilor Zweifel has made a case for better connectivity between the west side and the Downtown, for years now. and her concerns are access and safety.

    Why is there so much angst about proposals to control the highway traffic where it passes through OUR town, and impedes both our access and our safety?

    ****Let’s make sure the federal dollars are not wasted,and are used to accomplish a long sought after goal. ****

    and P.S.: could our brave police officers please “serve and protect” us by an aggressive ticketing campaign on Hwy 3, north of St. Olaf Avenue?

    October 23, 2011
  52. john george said:

    I think the comments addressing vehicle traffic at this crossing are warranted. This is not a wide open visibility area. IMO, this crossing has the least visibility of any part of Hwy 3 where it passes through Northfield. Having connectivity between the northwest side of Northfield and the downtown area is definitely desirable. The question is whether it is wise to do an on-grade crossing at this point. This is a 4-lane wighway being crossed here, not a residential street. It is being used by 2-40 ton vehicles, not bikers and horses. To gloss over this fact is unwise.

    October 23, 2011
  53. kiffi summa said:

    May I just reiterate … if it is thought that this is such a bad intersection, low visibility, etc., then would it not be the very first priority to make sure that all vehicles in the area are moving at or under the posted speed limit?

    The electric speed sign and an aggressive ticketing campaign are needed.

    October 24, 2011
  54. john george said:

    I was just through that area again this morning, and I had a “Duh!” experience. The whole concept here is to facilitate people living in the NW part of town to walk downtown. Someone above mentioned that it adds 2 blocks to the walk to cross Hwy 3 at 2nd. Street instead of St. Olaf. If someone is walking to downtown, they are going to walk that distance anyway! The issue here is whether they walk on the west side of Hwy 3 (already a wide sidewalk) or the east side of Hwy 3.

    If you observe the path worn in the grass on the west side of 3 to the viaduct, it would appear that those people coming east on Greenvale are choosing not to risk the traffic at that intersection. Putting a light controled crosswalk at the Greenvale intersection would better accomodate those people, taking them to an already constructed sidewalk on the east side of Hwy 3. If there is concern for those coming east/west on St. Olaf, I noticed that there is abundant room for a sidewalk on the east side of Spring Street between Olaf and 2nd. Street. If we are going to invest money in some type of infrastructure, then I think we need to do it wisely. Trying to force that option at the St. Olaf intersection lacks wisdom, IMO.

    October 24, 2011
  55. Yeah, John, I think everyone from the beginning has agreed that Greenvale matters more, because St. Olaf Ave has options, while Greenvale does not. My original objection is that the design pretends to provide a good option for St. Olaf Ave as well as Greenvale, when, in fact, it provides only a 7-minute detour.

    The reality is, people do cross at St. Olaf Ave and Hwy 3, whether or not the 2nd St crossing is an option. Suggested improvements are only ways to make existing crossing safer. There are no indications from our local context that pedestrians are careless at unsignalized crosswalks, since even at Malt-O-Meal, where drivers get about 50 warnings before getting to the well-marked crosswalk, people generally wait cautiously for cars to stop, then proceed. Your repeated worst-case scenarios for a crossing at Olaf Ave don’t seem to acknowledge the fact that Northfield pedestrians are very cautious — if anything, too timid (like waving on cars that have correctly stopped… an absurd Minnesota nice!).

    Nevertheless, I agree: Greenvale is a greater priority.

    October 24, 2011
  56. This project is about transportation equity, social justice and economic development. According to the Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition 40% of Minnesotans do not drive, that includes children, the elderly, people with disabilities and those who cannot afford a car. Once this project is completed and the connection is made from east to west, a child (or anyone else for that matter) will be able to get on their bike at Greenvale Elementary School and ride downtown using designated bike lanes and the mixed-use trail that will take them safely under Highway 3.

    October 24, 2011
  57. David Ludescher said:


    Thanks for chiming in. My understanding is that west-siders could cross at that point now. West-siders could also cross at 2nd Street. It is not the connection that I object to – it is spending $1.0 million dollars on a connection that has little practical value.

    What do the traffic numbers show about how many pedestrians and/or bikers would use the connection?

    October 24, 2011
  58. Erica Zweifel said:

    Hi David,
    Maybe you are bold enough to try and cross Highway 3 at Greenvale or St Olaf Avenue, but I am most certainly not. I sometimes have difficulty crossing at 2nd Street even with a light. I have nearly been hit by cars and once a semi-truck turning onto Hwy 3, and this was while I was in the crosswalk with a green pedestrian light.
    For non-motorized transportation, Highway 3 represents a difficult barrier between residential and college areas in the western portions of the City on one hand, and the downtown area on the other. It carries over 15,000 vehicles per day along its entire length through town. There are limited crossing points for bicyclists and walkers to safely use. The proposed project will provide a much-needed safe linkage for bicyclists and pedestrians between the western portions of Northfield and the downtown area.
    Also, Northfield has an unusually high demand for bike and pedestrian facilities, given the two colleges in town and other factors. Based on census data, over 20 percent of all commuting trips by Northfield residents are non-motorized. This is much higher than most similar towns in Minnesota. The proposed project is a key effort to meet and accommodate this demand in a safe manner.

    October 24, 2011
  59. john george said:

    Griff- I went back to view the aerial view of the proposed project, and the blue lines are all moved around. I’m not sure why the oicture was changed. Could you possibly add the original view back into your comment? Thanks,

    October 24, 2011
  60. Griff Wigley said:

    John, yes, I see that the blue lines of the trail all moved east. There may have been an earthquake in that area, as the map says that it was last edited 5 days ago.

    I’ve got a full schedule today and may not have time to make the fix so in the meantime, use the large PDF version (9MB) of the Proposed Connections TIGR Grant map that was in the council packet.

    October 25, 2011
  61. john george said:

    Griff- Thanks for the link. I didn’t realize this project had such earthshaking ramifications. I guess that’s what happens when you try to make one siesmic fit everyone. The pink lines are really cute, too!

    October 25, 2011
  62. David Ludescher said:


    Even if we are to assume that the project provides a much-needed safe linkage for non-motorized transportation, I still question how the $1.0 million price tag can be justified without some internal and external analysis of the project’s economic and social value.

    To say that the project provides “transportation equity, social justice, and economic development” does not answer the difficult question of whether the money is well-spent. I think it is incumbent upon any elected official, who by reason of election is in a fiduciary capacity, to determine at least three things when spending taxpayer money:
    1. What is the value of the project itself – i.e. how much transportation equity, social justice, and economic development is being generated?
    2. What are the other potential uses for this same money, and what is the value of those projects?
    3. If this is the highest and best use of the money, is there a less expensive way to accomplish the same project?

    I quit the Streetscape Task Force because there was no discernible methodology (rubric) for deciding how to spend (taxpayer) money. This spending has the same feel.

    October 26, 2011
  63. William Siemers said:

    Social Justice? It might be interesting to ask some folks that actually are in need of Social Justice if they think the best way to promote it is by spending a million and a half on a bike path.

    October 26, 2011
  64. Erica Zweifel said:

    Hi William, I think that you and I are working from different definitions of social justice. My definition of social justice is a society that recognizes the dignity of every human being. As I see it, Northfield as a community is falling short of social justice in the transportation realm. Frankly, I am embarrassed as a member of this community to watch people walking and/or pushing strollers in a dirt path in the gutter or taking their lives in their hands to dash across Highway 3 because we have not provided them with safe infrastructure.

    October 26, 2011
  65. David Ludescher said:


    I think William’s point is well-taken. Social justice principles suggest that people need food, shelter, and clothing before a walking path. Give the $0.5 million to the CAC, and forget about the federal money.

    October 26, 2011
  66. William and David, you guys seem a bit one-sided. Why is it that money to be spent on infrastructure that benefits the poor could really be better spent elsewhere, while the gazillions of public dollars that go to subsidizing the auto-owning middle- and upper-class is AOK? Mn/DOT spent 280 million dollars on a single interchange, largely to ensure the smooth and efficient flow of middle-class suburbanites into the City of Minneapolis. In Northfield, in the 90s, we spent millions to upgrade S Hwy 3, making it the unaesthetic deathtrap it is today. But 500k to provide a safe crossing for pedestrians (who often don’t even have the option of driving)? That should really be given to a better purpose.

    I don’t love the design; I haven’t hidden that at all. But it will improve crossing options for those users who need it most — those living in Viking Terrace, and at the apartment buildings at N Spring St and Greenvale Ave.

    The grand irony to all of this, of course, is that it’s the original autocentric design that makes this whole expenditure necessary. Had we paid, whenever that viaduct was built, to put adequate sidewalks on both sides, people could walk to the 2nd Street light. Had we built two lanes rather than four, pedestrians could negotiate traffic more easily. Had drivers actually been stopping when required by law, pedestrians wouldn’t be bushwhacking to avoid surface crossings. And now, these same drivers piss and moan about the rare transportation dollar that doesn’t go to benefit them.

    October 26, 2011
  67. john george said:

    So, David and William are one sided and you are not? Autocentric? Hmmmmmm. Is your issue really to provide safe crossings for pedestrians or to inflict more obstacles upon those miserable drivers you seem to disdain? Is adding on-grade crossings to control drivers’ speed worth risking pedestrians’ lives? At least the proposal for the trail system is taking this into account by minimizing the danger of crossing traffic to those who would use the trail.

    As far as connecting Viking Terrace and the apartments to the 2nd. street crossing, it appears that a sidewalk could be added to the sides of each existing bridge and sidewalk poured from Greenvale to St. Olaf to connect the two, conceptually as the picture in this link
    I’m assuming engineering considered something like this, and I have no idea how cost efficient it would be.

    October 26, 2011
  68. John: “Crosswalks don’t kill people. People kill people.” We really have no local evidence to suggest that marking a crosswalk on Hwy 3 would be dangerous. I do not know of a pedestrian ever being killed in Northfield at an unprotected marked crosswalk — in fact, the most relevant example that comes to mind (Helen Zaun) is one where a pedestrian was killed crossing where there was a stop sign. Anecdotally, I’ve never seen a pedestrian act carelessly in Northfield at a marked crosswalk; at Malt-O-Meal, workers wait patiently and then walk quickly and almost apologetically in front of the cars (which, most of the time, stop correctly).

    Several people have treated the 2nd St light as the clear, existing solution. But let’s remember that even at a light, nothing is perfect. We allow cars to turn right on red, often causing them to ignore pedestrians coming from the right. (I no longer turn right on red when driving, but when I did, I know I stared intently to the left, looking for approaching cars.) Even on green, the green light and “walk” signal coincide, which does require turning traffic to be aware of and yield to pedestrians. As long as there are cars on the road, safe crossing depends on good driving, no matter light, sign, or whatever.

    In any case, since you are so very concerned about on-grade crossing, I assume you should also disagree with David and William and support Erica’s proposal, which allows pedestrians an alternative to crossing on the street at Greenvale.

    October 26, 2011
  69. john george said:

    As per my comment above

    At least the proposal for the trail system is taking this into account by minimizing the danger of crossing traffic to those who would use the trail.

    If I understand David’s and William’s comments correctly, they are questioning the ROI. I agree with them on that point. As I looked back over the comments, I think it was Arlen and Patrick that were adressing on grade crossings, but I may have missed someone. I do feel that I have some skin in this game as my daughter and grand daughter make frequent pedestrian trips downtown and to the Library. We live west of Greenvale School, and my daughter has not had any problems finding safe routes downtown. I appreciate Erica’s desire for social justice, but does this project accomplish that the most effeciently?

    October 26, 2011
  70. kiffi summa said:

    Thank you, Councilor Zweifel, for expressing the conviction that there are many aspects to social justice, and that the most important is equal OPPORTUNITY for all; whether it is in education, jobs, voting rights, or just safely walking to a destination along a path that offers little protection to those not in car.

    October 26, 2011
  71. William Siemers said:

    If crossings with lights are unsafe for pedestrians then we’re going to need a whole lot of new walking trails with bridges and tunnels. It would be impossible. Traffic lights and well marked cross walks are the obvious solution. I agree with Sean…if there is a cross walk and a light then there should be no right turn on red. That’s about as safe as it can get. The goal is to let pedestrians cross in a reasonably safe manner not in a totally safe manner.

    Put up signs, NO RIGHT TURN ON RED on second street..problem solved. Folks can walk down Spring Street or Linden to 2nd and cross the highway.

    October 27, 2011
  72. David Ludescher said:


    William’s point was that we should ask those in need of social justice if a bike path is the social justice they desire. Every dollar used to build this bike path will take away a dollar from money that could be used to buy people food, shelter, and clothing.

    October 27, 2011
  73. Arlen Malecha said:

    Sean –

    In 19.2.5 yuo state “We really have no local evidence to suggest that marking a crosswalk on Hwy 3 would be dangerous.” At the same time we there are no guarentees that pedestrians will any crosswalks or tunnels that are installed. I am willing to bet a fair majority of them will still cross the road where ever they choose.

    You go on to say, “I’ve never seen a pedestrian act carelessly in Northfield at a marked crosswalk …” Far too often I witnessed pedestrians dart out in front of vehicles that are in motion. Bike riders seem to be worse than walkers.

    And lastly, you say “As long as there are cars on the road, safe crossing depends on good driving, no matter light, sign, or whatever.” Although this is true, pedestrians also have to have some skin in the game.

    From your postings you seem to paint pedestrians with bright vibrant colors and motorists with dark eerie colors.

    I am not saying there is not room for improvement regarding pedestrian traffic, I just don’t see the need for the magnitude of this project. To me the tunnel is not the answer nor is a crossing at St. Olaf Ave.

    October 27, 2011
  74. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: Councilor: Parking and trail both possible

    But not everyone agrees that the proposal is the best plan. A letter from the Northfield Downtown Development Corp. supports improved pedestrian safety in town, but its some board members question the current plan.

    While the entire board supports increased access to downtown and improved pedestrian safety, it questioned the wisdom of spending more than $1.5 million — including the city’s $500,000 share — on this plan, said NDDC Board President Greg Kneser.

    A few board members also worry that the city’s portion of the project will reduce available funding for additional parking downtown, an identified need for 40 years.

    November 11, 2011
  75. […] coverage of the project during the application process: Northfield News, Patch, Locally Grown Share this:ShareFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was […]

    December 15, 2011
  76. kiffi summa said:

    Congrats to all who championed this effort, and ESPECIALLY to Councilor Zweifel who saw the need on so many levels, not just transportation issues.

    I am most concerned about the people who walk south on Hwy 3 from the residential areas on both sides of the highway, just a few blocks to the north, often moms with several small children or older children on their own, ether to, or from, the downtown…

    And this has got to be good news for those one sees in motorized wheelchairs, waiting to cross highway 3, often at St. Olaf.

    Originally , half of the 500K was going to come from the Downtown $$ , and half from city reserves in another fund….I hope that division of funding will stay as originally announced.

    December 15, 2011
  77. David Ludescher said:

    Betsey and Kiffi,

    I hate to throw water on the parade, but $1.6 million for an underpass at Greenvale is a sad commentary. This project is an excellent example of why our government is going broke. I take little consolation in the fact that we are spending $1.1 million of someone else’s money.

    This same amount of money would buy over meals for a town the size of Northfield for almost a year through Feed My Starving Children.

    December 15, 2011
  78. David:
    Well just imagine how many meals we could buy with the $9+ million it took to reconstruct the downtown Hwy 3/Water St (which could have, at no additional expense, addressed pedestrian crossing — but did not).

    Roads are expensive, especially when we design them wrong the first time. But it’s completely unfair to apply this extreme neediness standard only to nonmotorized projects.

    I stand by my earlier criticisms of the specific design, but this will ultimately improve safe access for the whole northwest corner of Northfield into downtown. I stand by Betsey in applauding Erica for her work on this.

    December 15, 2011
  79. kiffi summa said:

    That may be David, but aren’t children facing the possibility of getting killed on the highway because there is no safe way to walk just as important as food programs? there are many worthy charitable programs around the world; this grant was not offered for food, it was offered for improved transportation, so it ‘s not money that would have gone for food in any case.

    Not applying for this grant, to improve pedestrian safety in this community, would not have fed any starving children; but it may save a child’s life.

    December 15, 2011
  80. David Ludescher said:


    Let’s be honest. This is another bobo/latte project, not unlike the bikepath (upon which you can’t ride a bike), and the promenade (that is still a parking lot).

    Not applying for the grant, and using the general reserve to pay for these projects is the right (i.e. moral) way to do these projects. Or better yet, put these projects up for a bonding vote. Raiding the Streetscape Fund and taking money from the federal government makes it far too easy to use someone else’s money to justify doing whatever suits the fancy of the those in power.

    December 15, 2011
  81. kiffi summa said:

    OK, David… that’s a better explanation of your disapproval 🙁 than your former one; you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, and you have been consistent…

    However, why is the safety of the people you see walking from the North, along the side of the road on the overpass, not of some concern to you?

    And as far as streetscape $$ go, are not the streets supposed to safe for everyone, as much as possible?

    Where is the moralistic ‘purity’ of denying those residents a safe route because you don’t want to take any of the Fed $$ offered to solve that problem?

    December 16, 2011
  82. john george said:

    Kiffi- I think there can be a distinction made between what is deemed a safe route and a more direct route. As I stated in an earlier post, my daughter and grand daughter make numerous pedestrian trips downtown and have never felt at risk. There is a safe route to downtown from Viking Terrace, but it entails walking a few blocks west on Greenvale to get to a southbound sidewalk. I think we need to be honest about the motivations, here. The reason people are wearing a path in the grass along Hwy. 3 is because it is more direct. I think it is wise to take this into consideration in the route planning. As many institutions of higher learning have found out, it is easier to build a sidewalk where the students walk rahter than try to train them to walk a little out of their way. The planned pathway at least is following human nature. And, from my perspective, whether the money used comes from the Federal coffers or local taxes, it still comes out of our pockets. Getting it from the Federal level just draws it from a larger tax base.

    December 16, 2011
  83. David Ludescher said:


    My concern is that we are going to spend $1.6 million without any reference to a project’s actual usefulness – even to those whom it is supposed to benefit.

    I have the same problem with a new Safety Center. As far as I am aware, there is not a single incident of failure because of the old building.

    It is also disconcerting that we, who live in an above average community, should welcome taking money from the federal government to build our own latte project.

    December 16, 2011
  84. kiffi summa said:

    John: since it is human nature to take the more direct route… and your example of building walks on footpaths is a good one… what is wrong with increasing the safety on the route people will choose to walk on?

    Do the residents of the two mobile home parks not deserve a safe walk as much as everyone else in the community?

    Northfield has a policy of providing sidewalks to facilitate safe walking routes; this should satisfy that policy for some … now we need to work on a safe route to Greenvale School for children who are crossing the railroad tracks where there is no monitored crossing; we also have a Safe Routes to School Policy.

    December 16, 2011
  85. kiffi summa said:

    David: Disagree on this , what you call somewhat disdainfully, a “latte” project 🙁

    Agree on the Safety Center 🙂

    December 16, 2011
  86. john george said:

    Kiffi- I was only trying to point out that a safe route exists. It is in response to all the comments that seem to allege that there is not a safe route at the present time. In my processing of this, I guess I am resigned to the fact that we must build infrastructure around peoples’ behavior rather than around any particular logical plan.

    December 16, 2011
  87. But at a certain point, it becomes an absurd thing to argue. This is the route one would need to take from Viking Terrace to the corner of Division and 2nd, if you wanted to stay on sidewalks and didn’t want to cross N Hwy 3. It’s 6750 feet — and that’s only after this year’s Linden St construction. Prior to that project, you would have had to have gone to N Manitou St to stay on sidewalks, making the total distance 10 000 feet, or almost two full miles. (Obviously you can walk in a low-speed roadway, but the widespread lack of pedestrian facilities is worth noting.)

    This is the planned TIGER route, which is 5207 feet, or about a 6-minute time reduction from the 6750 route. Subjectively, the 6750 route is even worse: because much of our development is centered around Highway 3, it feels substantially inconvenient to go several block off it.

    And this is what we could have if we’d done on-grade crossings at Greenvale and St. Olaf. Saves another couple of minutes off the TIGER plan.

    Ultimately, it’s important to remember that not providing facilities incites unsafe behavior. Further south on Hwy 3, at W 3rd St, there is no marked crosswalk. Because of this, people subjectively feel no safer crossing there than mid-block, where they don’t have right of way, and where cars are less likely to be able to respond properly. Don’t believe me? Go check it out any Jesse James Days. Because of a lack of crossing that is clear to drivers and pedestrians, you instead have people scurrying across erratically. Accomodate human nature and human needs, and you make things safer.

    December 16, 2011
  88. David Ludescher said:


    With the Safety Center, we are spending our own money foolishly; with the underpass, we are spending everyone else’s money foolishly.

    At some point, the cost of any project, latte or otherwise, has to figure into the equation of what is responsible spending. We can’t continue to operate the city government like we have the same resources as the colleges.

    December 16, 2011
  89. David Ludescher said:


    Correct me if I am wrong. Anyone can walk the TIGER route right now. It just isn’t developed as a walking path.

    December 16, 2011
  90. john george said:

    Sean- Your comment above

    ..not providing facilities incites unsafe behavior…

    belies the philosophy that the government must provide ABC or people will plunge themselves into oblivion. To me, it smacks of the idea that people can’t think for themselves and take steps to safely travel from point A to point B. It also smacks of the whole entitlement mentality that says society owes it to me to protect me from myself and my stupidity. I just don’t agree with that philosophy. There exists a safe route from Viking Terrace to downtown, but your argument presents that expecting people to follow that route invokes a great inconvenience upon them. I question using that as a justification for spending $1.6 million. People buy cars for convenience. Walking just takes longer and expends more energy, no matter what the route.

    I have traveled in other countries where there are wide, high-speed roadways. Even though there are marked crossings specifically for foot traffic, I have seen individuals race across 6 lanes of traffic on a divided highway just so they don’t have to walk to the crossing. Human behavior doesn’t vary much across cultures, but supposedly education should give people a better understanding of how things work. I would opine that it appears not to change things appreciably.

    December 16, 2011
  91. kiffi summa said:

    Bottom line for me:
    . Our government’s (local) first charge is to provide for the health, safety , and welfare of its residents.
    . Our local government has done that (re: pedestrian transportation) as it sees fit, by providing sidewalks, street crossings, and adopting policies like “Safe Routes to Schools”.
    . The Federal Gov’t offered a grant to support the infrastructure needs of the local gov’t unit.
    . The elected officials of this community sought access to this Federal grant money to address a need they saw, and were successful.
    . Now the pedestrian walkway they felt was needed to provide for a portion of the community whose pedestrian safety was not previously adequately provided for, will be built, with the local dollars only paying approximately one-third of the cost.

    . IMO, a very good outcome.

    December 21, 2011
  92. David Ludescher said:


    I don’t think we can have a rational discussion about the merits of this project without agreeing upon what constitutes sound principles of government spending. The Safety Center discussion suffers from the same problem. As far as I can tell, there are no principles.

    The Streetscape Task Force and the Council need to establish some criteria (i.e. a rubric) to analyze the economic value of these projects, especially these latte projects.

    December 21, 2011
  93. kiffi summa said:

    David: I’m sorry ,and I don’t mean to be rude, but I think it’s just a bore for us to argue back and forth on this; we’ve both made our points: you think its a wasteful “latte”, and I think it is necessary ‘water’….

    Let’s quit arguing and see if anyone else has something to say, OK?

    December 21, 2011
  94. David Ludescher said:


    I would be interested to know how you differentiate “water” projects from “latte” projects.

    December 22, 2011
  95. kiffi summa said:

    the time has come to bring this subject up again …

    Next Wednesday, August 1, from 5-7 PM, the City will be hosting an informational open house on this Trail project, funded partially (about half) by Federal $$.
    Erica Zweifel, as a City Councilor, has supported this project from the beginning and worked hard to make sure it happens with the support of Federal funds.

    Some of the reasons I think it is an exceptional project are listed in my comment #29, above.

    However, there are some who do not agree, and their reasons should be evaluated by voters as they cast a vote for who is to represent the newly ‘boundaried’ 4th Ward.
    I hope there will be a public presence at this open house the City is hosting, not only to support the project, but to gain information about city council candidates, and their reasons for wishing to push for, or not support as the case may be, this important safety project for the 4th ward residents.

    July 28, 2012
  96. kiffi summa said:

    Sorry … old habits die hard, I guess … this area is now the 3rd Ward (newly boundaried) and it is an important safety project for the 3rd Ward.

    July 28, 2012

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