2/28/12 Minneapolis Transportation & Public Works Committee

The Transportation & Public Works Committee of the Minneapolis City Council is a not-very-interesting meeting where a lot of interesting stuff is talked about.  Here is an attempt to add some context to the dry but vital meeting topics.  I’ve been summarizing them here at streets.mn since the beginning of the year; here’s a list of past meetings if your interest is piqued.

I’m going to go out of order again because this meeting largely dealt with an issue that has been #1 on a lot of people’s minds lately but was placed as # 18 on the agenda.

There! I fixed it!

18. Sabo Bridge Update  Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last couple weeks, you’ve heard that Minneapolis has more bridge problems, this time on the seemingly John Prine-inspired Sabo Bridge.  Public Works Deputy Director Heidi Hamilton does a phenomenal job explaining the situation, which you can watch here or read about in MPR’s excellent summary.  They don’t yet know what happened but expect to figure it out in the next “four to eight weeks”; it couldn’t have anything to do with the cables wiggling like a caffeinated toddler, could it?  (thanks to Bus Driver Dude from minnescraper for this amazing youtube vid)  Though still a bit cloudy, the details on this story are fascinating and if you don’t have time for Heidi’s spiel, I recommend you at least check out the pdf of her presentation.

1.    Riverside Ave Street Reconstruction and Street Lighting Project, Phase 2  If you’ve been on or near the southeast half of Riverside Ave in the last year, you’ve noticed something going on there.  Look for it on the other half this year.

Pretty darn good public worker

2.   Director of Public Works  Mayor Rybak wrote a heartwarming one-paragraph letter to nominate for reappointment the heads of 5 departments.  Steve Kotke, the professional and amiable director of Public Works, has a two-year term that began on January 3rd.  If no news is good news then Steve Kotke is a popular guy, because no one showed up to badmouth him at the public hearing.  On the contrary, he was lauded by the committee, and it’s hard to disagree with Robert Lillegren’s assessment that he’s “done a masterful job.”

3.   Joint Water Commission Contract Amendment  The three western suburbs of Golden Valley, Crystal and New Hope have made up a consortium to purchase drinking water from Minneapolis since 1962.  The meter station in Golden Valley has been acting up for a while now, and it’s time to fix it.  It seems that the cost will be shared evenly between the City and its customer, and afterwards the City will own the meter.

4.   Collaborative Research Project Agreement  The U of M will soon be working its research magic to cast spells of knowledge that will further improve the taste and smell (and further reduce the grittiness) of Minneapolis’ already delicious, odorless, non-chunky drinking water.

Put down that joint and pick up a shovel

5.   Sentencing to Service Program Contract  I don’t care who removes snow from corners and bus stops on City-owned property as long as it’s gone, but for the record it will continue to be removed by petty criminals in the custody of Hennepin County.  Is it wrong to hope more kids get caught smoking weed so this program can be expanded to all corners and bus stops?

6.   Northern Lights Express (NLX)  The City has thrown down $30-58k a year since 2008 to keep the NLX project office going.  The RCA contains the not-really-news update that “environmental work is currently being wrapped up and the engineering/design work has begun” towards the goal of 30% engineering for this phase.

7.   18th Ave NE Bike Trail, Phase II Yes, this project is complete, but there was a bit more than $90k of additional work above the original bid of $626k for the just over one mile off-street trail and bike blvd project.

Pedestrians will continue to share the sidewalk with semis on a short stretch of Winter St

8.   Winter St NE Reconstruction Project Layout Approval  The little four-block chunk of Winter St just east of 35W will be rebuilt along with its four tendrils down to East Hennepin and the cul-de-sac of 16th Ave SE north of East Hennepin.  Winter will be reconnected to the frontage road (who knows if it’s Johnson or some numbered avenue here) and the weird diagonal connection from the frontage road to Ulysses will be closed and replaced with a forking one-way drive onto Ulysses.  Plans do not indicate a sidewalk along the frontage road, so those unfortunate enough to attempt to walk the mile or so to the Quarry from Como in this pedestian-hostile environment will continue to detour up to Winter and back again to the frontage road.  Several sidewalk gaps will be plugged in this plan, though, notably a couple stretches along Winter and a block-long gap up the west side of Garfield.  A gap will effectively remain along Winter between Ulysses and Garfield where a loading dock will require the sidewalk to be a big old curb cut.  I don’t think anyone will be too upset by this; the street is short enough that it should rarely be deluged by speeding cars.  It would be nice to have a bump out on either end of the curb cut to provide cover for pedestrians briefly forced into the street, but overall this is a pretty good design for a little neighborhood that is split between industrial and residential uses.

The new signal at 29th Ave SE will be equipped with a beg button of course

9.   Central Corridor LRT Project  I would have thought it impossible to find a dull aspect of the inspiring and somehow controversial Central LRT, but the TPW Committee has done it with some finance mumbo-jumbo about a water gate valve that needs to be (re?) installed somewhere in Minneapolis related to the light rail work.  A bit less yawn-inducing is the other funding agreement here, related to the installation of a $25k traffic signal at 29th & University Aves SE.  This is where the LRT track will return to University from the U of M Transitway, so it’s pretty important that what was a minor intersection be signalized.  Here’s hoping it will not be turned on before the train starts running, though; that hill is annoying enough to bike up without having to stop halfway through.  Would it be crazy to suggest a red light exception for uphill bikes here?

 10. Capital Project Close-Outs  Funding wonks can start diving into the details on which projects were under budget and can be milked for funding, but the committee postponed it till next week.

11-14. Resurfacing Projects Four more stretches of new smoothness:  almost a mile and a half of Upton Ave S between 43rd and 54th Sts W built variously in 1951, 1966, and 1984 and costing $419,174; about a half-mile of West River Road North* between West Broadway and Plymouth built in 1971 and costing $750k even; about a third-mile of 15th St E between the freeway stub thing and Chicago Ave built in 1966 and costing $345k; and four shapely blocks of Sheridan Ave S between 39th and 43rd Sts W built in 1948 and costing $185,856.

15-16. Yard Waste Processing Contracts  Minneapolis produces too much yard waste for one contractor to handle, so half the city’s slimy dead leaves will be handled by a company called Organic Technologies and the other half by an acronymed company called SET/SKB.


*Is there anything more midwestern than the double directional?

Alex Bauman

About Alex Bauman

Alex enjoys blogging on his iPhoneDroid while stuck in traffic on his 90 minute daily commute to Roseville from bucolic Staggerford.