This weekend, I awoke early to grab some time-lapse sunrise photos on the Minnesota River banks across from the Port Cargill-West Elevator. I hiked the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail to a nice clearing then let my cameras click away as I listened to ducks quack and watched a beaver and muskrat paddle around. The morning couldn’t have been more lovely. It’s a shame transportation planners are doing all they can to keep people like me away.
The southern terminus of Normandale Boulevard is a textbook example of how misplaced priorities undermine a city’s amenities and increase costs. It’s characterized by features that tell everyone but immediate neighbors they aren’t welcome to use a trailhead that should be a regional asset.
As soon as drivers turn off the main road, they’re greeted by a sign that says there’s no parking on the street leading up to the trailhead. Both side of the street have no parking signs. The trailhead itself is off a cul-de-sac where the quarter-mile section of street ends, but there is no other place to stop. It’s as if the eight duplexes and two single-family homes on the street are saying, “Keep out! This is mine!” This isn’t due to heavy traffic or lack of space. There’s enough room for two vehicles to drive comfortably beside one another with a healthy amount of space left over for parking. A short hike wouldn’t be such a problem in an urban area. Here, though, trailhead access all but demands a car because sprawling single-family home subdivisions surround the rest of the area. I’m not sure who exactly owns this stretch of pavement. Google and Bloomington’s city map say the street is the terminus of Hennepin CSAH 34. The county map says CSAH 34 ends at Old Shakopee and that this is a city street.
In either case, this is a publicly funded roadway. The county state-aid highway system uses a mix of state and local taxes to cover costs. For Bloomington streets, owners of single family homes and duplexes are only assessed for 25 percent of project costs. Local governments also pick up the tab for plowing and street sweeping. In all likelihood, some local government is paying tens of thousands of dollars for a small bit of pavement that only 10 families can use. This isn’t fiscally responsible. By removing on-street parking, these suburban homeowners are essentially doing the same thing that urban homeowners owners do when they demand more on-street parking for their personal use. Both cases see a small, localized group of property owners asking other taxpayers to fund some asset that the larger community is effectively barred from using. In Bloomington, homeowners get access to a great trail and don’t have to deal with unsavory characters like myself tramping past their front doors — even if Bloomington might benefit from more out-of-town visitors. The end result in both cases is that local governments have effectively privatized a public good.