This isn’t a 1970’s commercial for GAP the clothing store. Its the phenomenon pedestrians experience in certain parts of our city, especially the suburbs.
This particular segment of missing sidewalk has a lot in common with other gaps in sidewalk networks. It falls in a “dead zone” between ajoining municipalities.
Anoka to the northwest and Coon Rapids to the southeast, along East River Rd / Coon Rapids Blvd.
These all too common gaps are puzzling to me. We don’t have dirt road gaps in these “dead zones”. We don’t suddenly enter some sort of twilight zone of public infrastructure.
Why are the sidewalks typically missing in these zones?
Mercy Hospital recently expanded their campus to the east, across Coon Rapids Blvd. They built a pretty impressive skyway across the street to allow for easy access between their existing and new building. They also provided an extremely large surface parking lot in the new development.
Along with the skyway and parking lot, Mercy Hospital’s frontage gained an extension to the City’s sidewalk network on the east side of the street. It starts from Blackfoot Street on the south to just a few yards past their private sidewalk leading to their building. The sidewalk simply ends once off their property. Once in Anoka, the sidewalk picks up again just south of 9th Avenue.
Metro Transit runs express and local buses along this corridor. It also happens to be the very first diamond lane shoulder for bus use in a city! There are bus stop benches along the corridor as well as one situated in a desire path, where the sidewalk simply isn’t built yet.
Do we only upgrade pedestrian facilities when development goes in? Does city ordinance force this financial cost onto the private entity?
It seems that we play hot potato with public sidewalks and nobody wants the responsibility. If we treated automobile infrastructure like this, there would be protests and angry citizens. When its a sidewalk, we simply walk in the grass and dirt. Where is the public outcry for a fully developed sidewalk network? If we made walking for short errands easy and pleasant, more of us would take advantage of it.
Coon Rapids Blvd has the good bones to be an excellent walkable commercial and residential corridor. We have (Most) of a complete sidewalk network, a reliable transit route (Route 852), a large community college and close proximity to Anoka and their wonderful Downtown — connecting transit routes, including commuter rail.
Lets capitalize on the good foundation we have along this important corridor and create value for the city and it’s citizens.
I think a huge part of the problem is that developers hate building sidewalks to “nowhere”. Thus the gaps persist on the fringes of the network. In this case, it looks like the publishing company to the west of Allina probably used this argument successfully at some point in the past.
Somewhat relevant, here is my favorite sidewalk in the Twin Cities:
Another reason the gaps persist is that we don’t treat sidewalks in the public ROW equal to streets with regards to winter maintenance. We impose public sidewalk clearance upon the property owner adjacent to it.
So people find many legitimate reasons and many selfish excuses to not want sidewalks imposed adjacent to them.
St. Louis Park is undergoing a decade-long process to fill in some gaps. There has been a lot of fraught emotions.