3/20/12 Minneapolis Transportation & Public Works Committee

You may contain the creek, but you can't control the creek

The Transportation & Public Works Committee of the Minneapolis City Council discusses a lot of interesting stuff but seems to either use too many or not enough words to describe what they’re talking 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.

1.  Public Works High Performing Employee Awards  I take back every defense I ever made of public employees as thrifty and efficient workers – these guys got free breakfast!  And all they had to do was save the life of someone stuck in a flood.  John Galt is rolling in his grave…

2.   Mississippi Watershed Management Organization Joint and Cooperative Agreement  Fridley, Columbia Heights and wee Hilltop have joined the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (WMO).  They previously belonged to the Six Cities WMO, but that recently dissolved with most of its members joining the Coon Creek WMO.  Presumably the watersheds themselves did not shift, so I sense politics afoot.

3.   Bassett Creek Shoreline Restoration  The City is partnering with the Park Board and the creek’s Watershed Management Organization to repair erosion along Bassett Creek, mostly in Wirth Park but also behind that giant hulking abandoned mill across Glenwood.  Biolog and rip rap will be installed for “toe protection”, but don’t kick off your shoes just yet – the toe of a stream bank refers to the part that is closest to the water.  Now if only the rest of Bassett Creek actually had banks to restore…

4.   Settlement Agreement  The asphalt Knutson Construction used on a short segment of 4th Ave N between Bryant and Dupont was not up to snuff, so they’re paying the City a cool $11k, to be used on the extra maintenance this crappy asphalt will require.

5.   Seward Community Bike Walk Center (SCBWC)  Here is an explanation from the RCA of why this is not just a subsidized bike shop in a fairly wealthy neighborhood:

The SCBWC will operate community-based transportation programming and educational services designed to increase bicycling and walking among populations in Seward and the surrounding neighborhoods that are under-represented in non-motorized transportation activities; especially low-income, minority and immigrant youth and women populations. The proposal builds upon experience by Seward Neighborhood Group that includes community organizing at Seward Towers and with the East African Community in Seward, as well as several demonstration biking and walking programs tested in the community.

That’s great, but every time I see something like this I wonder why we can’t have crosswalks.

New Parking Landscape for Ventura Village

6.   Critical Parking Area  Ventura Village is getting resident-permit parking along the odd side of about four, strangely non-contiguous blocks.

7.   Combining Near North, Grant Area, and Olson Memorial Hwy Frontage Rd Street Resurfacing Projects  I will take the credit for the City combining these projects – they clearly are copying my idea from my write-up of the 1/31/12 meeting.

8.   Cedar Lake Rd N Street Resurfacing Project  Maybe two blocks of Cedar Lake Rd N are going to be resurfaced to the tune of $385k.  This craggy stretch has somehow escaped paving since before the US entered World War II, and lies just north of the delightful Bassett Creek Trail.  Time to add bike lanes here as recommended in the Bike Master Plan, although this street is very narrow so it seems unlikely.

9.   8th Ave NE Street Resurfacing Project  Three blocks of 8th Ave NE and one block of 6th St NE will be resurfaced for just under $100k.  These blocks last felt the heated breath of asphalt in 1951 and 1965.  My wish list for this segment would include advisory bike lanes along 8th (the Bike Master Plan identifies it as an arterial bikeway west of 5th St NE) and a sidewalk or bike path connector to Washington St NE through the little triangle of Park Board-owned land.  If the latter happens I’ll be flabbergasted, but the former is possible, although it sounds like advisory bike lanes would need FHWA approval so sharrows are more likely.

10.  2nd St NE Street Resurfacing Project  About a mile and a quarter of 2nd St NE will be resurfaced in three separate segments, one between 17th and Lowry, one between 3rd and Broadway, and the one block between East Hennepin and 1st Ave NE.  The project will shrink the City treasury by $1.6m.  The Bike Master Plan has nothing to say about any of these segments, but I would suggest looking at putting something on the block between East Hennepin and 1st since people likely use it to connect to these one-way facilities (did East Hennepin ever get striped?).

Tubes! Crosswalks! Trees! Where'd Minneapolis go?

11.  Downtown Minneapolis Public Realm Conservancy Study  Public Works is throwing $5k into the pot for a study of the feasibility of creating a nonprofit entity to coordinate the “greening [of] the public realm.”  This grew out of a goal in the Downtown Council’s 2025 plan, which involved many pictures of currently non-existent trees on downtown streets, as well as pictures of men in futuristic tubes.  Downtown’s streets sure could use some more green, but it seems like Public Works could accomplish it all by itself by simply replacing underused traffic lanes with trees (boulevard trees require 5.5′, and one traffic lane is at least 11′; works out neat when you consider pretty much every street east of 2nd Ave S is overbuilt, and many west of it, too).

12.  Capital Project Close-Outs  For the past two years Public Works has been digging through its couch cushions for change, analyzing the final costs of finished projects to see if any were finished for less than budgeted.  If I’m reading this spreadsheet right, they found a good $3.75m of funds available to be reallocated to stuff like free breakfast for honored employees.  Actually, the funds have been reallocated following a process they’ve been using “for years,” according to CM Colvin Roy, which involves “matching up project funds that are remaining from a project that didn’t consume all the funds, with a project that needs more funds, all of these projects approved of course.”  It turns out that investors don’t like the bonds they bought for infrastructure to instead go to bagels for heroes.  In fact, the outrageously expensive and incredibly useful Cedar Lake Trail extension gets most of the spare change, a bit more than $3m if I’m counting correctly.  But don’t worry; while most of the projects in this close-out are paving-oriented, Steve Kotke promises more impending close-outs from surface water and sewer projects.  If accounting wizardry is your thing, check out the further discussion on this issue at the Ways & Means committee today.

13. Bids  A bunch of bids were accepted at this meeting; interesting bids include Tiller Corp’s $5.5m contract to supply asphalt (apparently nearly a 48% increase over 2011, probably due more to increased paving activities than peak oil) and Graymont’s $2m contract to supply quicklime to the Water Works, for which they charge 8% less if delivered by train rather than by truck.

14.  Sabo Bridge Update  While the crack team of forensic bridge scientists from LeHigh University continues its investigation as to the cause of the cable connector doohickey, Public Works continues to monitor the bridge daily.  Driving through the area continues to be a real pain.

Bonus:  solid waste system changes  Last fall, the City Council decided to switch from a multi-sort recycling system, but staff is still evaluating whether it’ll be single- or dual-sort.  They’re still thinking about how it’ll work with organics collection.


Garbage can land, Dunwoody under 394


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.