Urban Highway Removal and YOU!

Episode Summary

00:00 | Intro
01:04 | Background on urban highway removal
Toole Design
17:09 | I-94 & MN-55 in the Twin Cities
40:30 | I-35 in Duluth
Duluth Waterfront Collective
59:48 | Outro

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Attributions

Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

This episode was hosted and edited by Ian R Buck, with transcript by the indominable Mike Allen. Christy Marsden is our awesome guest booker, and technical assistance is provided by the super professional Brian Mitchell. If you’re able to help make sure this team gets paid for the hard work they do, please consider donating. We really appreciate it!

Copyright

The Streets.mn Podcast is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. Feel free to republish the episode as long as you don’t alter it and you aren’t profiting from it.

Transcript

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:00:00] You know, in working on this project, we’ve kind of established this nationwide network of freeway fighting campaigns, and everyone’s up against the same things.

Ian R. Buck: [00:00:12] Join your local chapter of the Freeway Fighting Campaign. [Laughing]

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:00:14] Yes, seriously, we should. We should set that out and make buttons and stuff. But yeah, no. Everyone’s up against the same processes. So there’s a lot of capacity to share information and just best practices in terms of like how to confront some of these problems. 

[00:00:34] [Music]

Ian R. Buck: [00:00:39] Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we shape transportation and land use to make our world a better place. Coming to you from beautiful Frogtown Saint Paul, Minnesota, I’m your host, Ian R. Buck. In today’s episode, we’re going to be doing a deep dive on urban highway removal projects. Find the show notes and a transcript of the episode at streets.mn. There are a few highway removal projects that advocates are working on in Minnesota. But first we need a little background, so we’re going to talk to Ian Lockwood of Toole Design.

Ian Lockwood: [00:01:14] I’m Ian Lockwood with Toole Design Group. We’re a firm of landscape architects, engineers and planners, urban designers. There’s about 250 of us in 18 or 19 offices around North America. And all we do is livable transportation. We we promote walking, cycling. We we build a lot of infrastructure for active transportation, transit. We… We develop new places with connected networks of streets. So we really try and celebrate sort of walking proximity, very traditional values that date back a long time, you know, to build great places and to, you know, to help society get back on a path towards sustainability and higher quality of life. We’ve been involved in well over 30 high removal projects in the United States, which is which is pretty cool. The highway removal is different than a highway mitigation. The highway removal is when the highway is literally removed, it’s no longer there anymore. And in its place is usually some sort of urban infrastructure, either street network or boulevard. A lot of space is created for parks, housing, schools, whatever, whatever is necessary. And there’s different types of highway removals. The easiest one is called a spur removal, where a highway came into a city and then was stopped by protests or something. And it didn’t it never got finished. And so it just sort of dies into the downtown or something like that. And then there’s the section removal. Like if a highway is coming into into a city and it goes all the way through and goes out the other side, and you want to remove the part that’s in the city.So it would come in transition, become maybe an urban boulevard, and then at the end of the city, transition back to being a highway and being more high speed in in the rural area is beyond the city. There’s what we call this redundant section of removal, which is like a section of removal that I just described, except there’s maybe a bypass. And so you don’t have to go down the boulevard. If you if you still want a highway experience, you can just go around the city. And then there’s relocating highways. You can just relocate it from inside the city to outside the city. And the last one, which is my favorite one, the fifth one is the prevention. There’s a lot of highway widening and new highways on the books that date back probably to the sixties and seventies. And and a lot of departments of transportation would like to build these highways. And this is one of the hardest types of highways to get rid of, to get it off the books. And that’s probably the most important kind to do because it’s sort of like an emergency room doctor. You know, you’re going to stop the bleeding, you know, stop, do more, do no more harm kind of thing.

Ian R. Buck: [00:03:51] Right. Right.

Ian Lockwood: [00:03:52] The ones that are on the books have all this promise. They always say it’s going to create jobs, it’s going to help people move in quickly and out quickly. And there’s all these false promises that accompany these proposed highways. And so it’s hard to… They usually have traffic models to support them and say, look, the models prove it…

Ian R. Buck: [00:04:10] Right.

Ian Lockwood: [00:04:10] …but then they get built and then it fills up and it becomes congested and creates more parking problems and, you know, more pollution and, you know, a bigger division in the community.

Ian R. Buck: [00:04:21] Yeah.

Ian Lockwood: [00:04:21] And so the promises are never met, but the rhetoric sounds great before they’re built. So you have to counter the rhetoric, which is sometimes hard. When it’s actually built, you can actually point to the problem and say, “Hey look – see all these problems out here? Yeah, we can get rid of all those if you would like.”

Ian R. Buck: [00:04:36] I would love to see, I don’t know, a governor or even somebody who’s like, you know, trying to get hired as like the commissioner of a state DOT to run on a campaign of “Read my lips – no new lanes.”

Ian Lockwood: [00:04:53] The other thing besides removal is are what we call mitigation, where where you try and keep the highway but just make it less harmful. And that ranges from like sound walls to overpasses and underpasses and elevating the freeway right above the whole street network so that the streets can flow underneath it or depressing it. So they can flow over top of the highway, you know, over bridges. Or now you get even more heroic mitigation, like putting caps on little pieces of the freeway, right?

Ian R. Buck: [00:05:22] Land bridges.

Ian Lockwood: [00:05:22] Yeah, yeah. Land bridges. And we have a hard enough time maintaining the bridges we have now, let alone really wide ones with with parks on top of them. The mitigations they only, they only deal with what we call the micro-problems, the, you know, things like local noise pollution, light pollution. You know, the disconnects across the highway, you know, walking and cycling across it. The aesthetics improves the aesthetics and it helps land values in the vicinity of the the cap, but it ignores, you know, the effects on city form like sprawl, automobile dependency, the interchanges and focusing so much traffic on the arterials, you know, creating other barriers besides the highway in the community and not to mention the energy consumption, the pollution that a car dependency results in, you know, image, you know, ruining the transit viability by spreading out land uses so much.

Ian R. Buck: [00:06:17] Yeah.

Ian Lockwood: [00:06:17] So there’s all these macro problems.

Ian R. Buck: [00:06:19] Taking taking away tax base from the city core and like, you know, spreading it out to…

Ian Lockwood: [00:06:25] Totally!

Ian R. Buck: [00:06:25] …a bunch of suburbs, making it much, much harder to pay for everything. Yeah.

Ian Lockwood: [00:06:28] The the pattern is, is that the highways export value and people to the suburbs where people are spread out and there’s so much more infrastructure out there that it costs a ton of money that’s just unsustainable to support the infrastructure. Once… When the suburbs are new, it’s it’s not a problem because it’s not it’s not that expensive to to maintain new infrastructure. But as they age, these suburbs don’t generate enough tax base to pay for their own infrastructure replacement. And so the urban areas have to subsidize them.

Ian Lockwood: [00:07:02] Mmm.

Ian R. Buck: [00:07:02] And so in the long run, the taxing implications of the suburbs are going to be just so costly that they’ll become a net sink on society.

Ian R. Buck: [00:07:14] And when I, you know, started realizing all these societal problems that highways bring, I did start thinking about like like, well, why do we like why would we want to build highways in the first place at all? And I, I did have a moment where I had to step back and realize, okay, well, there is there is pretty much like one thing that highways do really well, which is separate traffic that wants to go 60 miles an hour in big, you know, multi-ton vehicles, from traffic like me that travels on a bicycle, and I’m going, you know, 20 miles an hour, tops, and transporting that traffic long distances between cities. Like, that’s that’s really where where highways shine and do their work. Right? But once you put them inside cities, then they create a lot of other problems around, you know, especially induced demand. Right? You know, induced demand isn’t something that we really have to worry too much about when a highway is is going between two different destinations, two different cities, whereas within a city, it concentrates all of that all of that traffic into one place.

Ian Lockwood: [00:08:28] Yeah. You brought up a lot of points there. Yeah, we have no quarrel with highways in the right places, but they’re not in the right context in cities. Between cities, not a problem. In fact, in a rural environment, you expect to go more quickly. You know, in a suburban environment, you expect to go sort of medium speeds…

Ian R. Buck: [00:08:44] Right.

Ian Lockwood: [00:08:45] …and in urban environments, you expect to go slowly. And what’s happened is we’ve imported this sort of the rural values into cities saying, “well, wouldn’t it be great to be able to go really fast in cities, too?” But that has a hugely divisive effect. And like you mentioned, it exports the the value outside. And when you when you’re in cities, inevitably the the highways aren’t being used for, you know, really highway functions. Drivers get on in a, you know, a couple of ramps away and just get off again. So many local trips and they’ve become glorified commuter routes and a lot of the interstates in cities, no one’s going you know, you choose distances in the cities. You know, they’re just going to work. And so these interstates should really be for, you know, city to city travel, not neighborhood to… To work type trips.

Ian R. Buck: [00:09:35] Mm hmm. Yeah, and if we remove the highway that goes through the city, then you can build more things in a higher density model. And then the trips that you’re taking are going to, like, overall, be even shorter because you’ll have more things in in a closer proximity to where you are, right?

Ian Lockwood: [00:09:58] Well, the reason that this this whole thing about speed came up was because the original proponents of faster travel by car thought that nothing else would change. You’d just be able to get over faster than you could before. But of course, it had a big effects… 

Ian R. Buck: [00:10:13] [laughing]

Ian Lockwood: [00:10:13] …on people’s habits that had big effects on development patterns, and it created really long trips and people exploited all of the the value they could of these high speeds. And it’s done tremendous damage to to cities. But as you said, as we remove the highways, the cities change again. And we have models like real cities that have done this sort of thing and have reduced their vehicle miles traveled. They have reduced their average trip length, like with with slower speeds. Markets change where people live, changes, affordable housing is more feasible. There’s money for other things. And right now, with the sort of high speed automobile dependency kind of thinking, yeah, we’re spending tons and tons of money on just moving around long distances. It’s a complete waste of money, and we can have higher qualities of life, better health outcomes, preserve rural areas and habitats elsewhere. Like there’s so many benefits of building authentic cities instead of these spread out, car-dependent, sprawling type cities.

Ian R. Buck: [00:11:20] Most of us who are alive today grew up in a in a car-dependent, you know, society, at least here in the United States, and it just seems normal. But while while I’ve been canvassing with Our Streets Minneapolis, and chatting with, you know, my neighbors about, “Hey, here’s this idea for removing I-94, here’s what we would like to put in place of it.” You know, “What do you think of this idea?” And almost everybody who’s whose doors I was knocking on, you know, looked at the looked at the diagrams and and said, “Well, that looks a lot better than what we’ve got right now.”

Ian Lockwood: [00:11:56] [Laughing]

Ian R. Buck: [00:11:57] And I’m like, “Yeah, right on!”

Ian Lockwood: [00:11:59] That’s a pattern that we’re noticing. You know, the younger generations are craving these sorts of urban experiences and they want more social interaction. You know, they don’t want to be sitting alone in the suburbs. They they crave that, that connectedness. So I think the younger people give me a lot of hope. A lot of our highway removal work starts with a discussion about values, what’s important to people? How do they picture their great, great grandchildren living? And they and they talk about this wonderful place. And we said, “Well, why don’t we just do that now? Like, why wait?”

Ian R. Buck: [00:12:34] So let’s let’s talk about place because every city is is different. It’s unique. You know, when I think about what makes Saint Paul, Saint Paul, you know, that’s very different from we were talking about Dallas is another place where a highway removal project is happening. So when you’re designing a a highway removal project, like what… what are you looking for? What what unique aspects of the community do you take into account? You know, when it when it comes to like what this is going to look like.

Ian Lockwood: [00:13:06] It starts with the community values. You really want to know what’s important to people. You also want to know the history, why the city was there, why the street networks like it is, what informed the way the city was shaped. And we know what shapes the highways. It’s a traffic demand forecast model. But what shapes cities originally? It has to do with everything from the climate, to the geography, to the type of businesses that they had back then. You know, very fundamental things, you know, kind of the roots of the city. So we want to get really grounded in in the communities story, you know, historically and what they’re about now. And as we change our arterials and our highways, the markets will change. And and and smaller format retail will happen. We’ll get what we call 15 and 20 minute neighborhoods where everything’s close at hand. And we’ll get on to a trajectory that’s far, far more sustainable than the one we’re on now. And the nice thing is, it will result in higher, or better health outcomes. It will help with our tax base because this highway dependency type thing, and car dependency type thing, is the most expensive way ever invented in the history of the world to get around. And so so that that will create a fiscal incentive, you know, in terms of, you know, taxes and discretionary income and money from cities for programs like at schools and to have swimming pools again and all these sorts of things that cities used to provide, provide traditionally. We can start doing that again instead of spending it all on expensive infrastructure. And this happens even down to little cities like Sulphur Springs, Texas. You know, it’s 16,000 people in the northeast part of Texas and middle of dairy country. They’re not near a metro area. So they’re there their own place, their state DOT years ago put a one way pair right through the downtown, damaged the business environment, you know, the core. And then they bypassed the city, I think it was in the seventies, all the business moved from the core to the bypass and it’s only like ten years ago where they redid their main street, they redid their square, they, they restored two-way operations in the city and investment came back. Local entrepreneurs could open up shops. The historic buildings were fixed up. The boards were taken off the windows. And and this this little city has gone through a renaissance. And it’s all because of traditional values, community values being expressed in the in the transportation realm.

Ian R. Buck: [00:15:35] And that didn’t even require the bypass to be taken out, right? Like that…

Ian Lockwood: [00:15:38] Right!

Ian R. Buck: [00:15:38] …that highway still exists.

Ian Lockwood: [00:15:41] Yeah. You can still have your suburban experience and your national chain restaurants and so forth. But this authentic urbanism in the downtown, even in a little place like Sulphur Springs, you can’t compete against that.

Ian R. Buck: [00:15:53] Mhmmm.

Ian Lockwood: [00:15:53] It’s got so much quality to it. It feels so authentic to people, and so it… that hasn’t been lost on employers. It has employers moving there now. It’s affordable to live there. And so, so these principles apply in in little rural America places. And rural America is suffering now. And so it’s not just the big cities that can benefit by this kind of stuff. It’s it’s every place, every urban environment, even little towns and hamlets can benefit by the same kind of thinking.

Ian R. Buck: [00:16:27] I would love to be able to say, no, we don’t need to get all your urbanism while we’re out here on vacation. We’ve got good urbanism at home. [laughing]

Ian Lockwood: [00:16:35] That’s right. Yeah. We have to go to Disney where you can walk down fake streets and, you know, look at fake buildings up to the street…

Ian R. Buck: [00:16:41] Mhmmm.

Ian Lockwood: [00:16:41] …and and all that social and economic exchange that’s going on on the streets. But why can’t we have really vibrant places in our cities? 

Ian R. Buck: [00:16:49] Right. Yea.

Ian Lockwood: [00:16:49] That we can go to and do the same thing.

[00:16:52] [Music]

Ian R. Buck: [00:16:52] All right. That was a lovely bit of background information on highway removal projects. Now we’re ready to talk to some local advocates about the projects that they’re working on. Thanks for joining us, Ian.

Ian Lockwood: [00:17:05] All right. Bye for now.

Ian R. Buck: [00:17:09] All right, so now we are going to talk to a couple of staff members at Our Streets Minneapolis. Our Streets Minneapolis is a transportation advocacy organization here in the Twin Cities, grew out of the old Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. And yeah, we’ve got Alex Burns, who is the Transportation Policy Coordinator, and José Antonio Zayas Cabán, the Advocacy Director at Our Streets. So welcome to the show, guys.

Alex Burns: [00:17:40] Thanks. Yeah, we’re happy to be here.

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:17:42] Yeah, thank you for having us.

Ian R. Buck: [00:17:43] So we’ve got two local highway removal proposals that that Our Streets is pushing for the Twin Cities Boulevard and Bring Back Sixth. So let’s talk, you know, details about those. Like what what are the project bounds of of those two proposals?

Alex Burns: [00:18:05] The Twin Cities Boulevard is a vision for a project that the Minnesota Department of Transportation is undertaking right now called Rethinking I-94. And the reason that this project is happening is because the infrastructure, the pavement, the retaining walls, the bridges, et cetera, on I-94 are nearing the end of their useful life, and the the DOT needs to decide what comes next, whether that’s a reconstructed or expanded freeway, or something else. And specifically, this corridor has been narrowed to the area between Hiawatha, in Minneapolis, and Marion Street in Saint Paul. So what we tell folks is it’s about the area, the seven and a half miles in between downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul. And what the Twin Cities Boulevard is a vision to bring reparative justice to that corridor by recognizing not only the initial harm, but the ongoing harm that the highway has caused, and to repair that through a few things which we can talk about in more detail, but by filling in the freeway trench, adding a a surface level urban boulevard that includes multi-modal transportation options, a reconnected street grid to stitch neighborhoods back together, and then reparative investment in housing and business opportunities in that reclaimed freeway land and adjacent parcels of publicly owned land to bring, like more walkable, locally-owned businesses, more housing that’s affordable to the communities along the corridor and bringing the really the things, the amenities that used to exist before the highway tore them out in the sixties.

Ian R. Buck: [00:19:48] I’m glad that you use the word, like, “stitch back together the community,” because the highway trench really does feel like a physical scar in, you know, the landscape of our city.

Alex Burns: [00:20:00] For sure. Yeah, I think that’s something it’s you can clearly see it on in an aerial or a Google map. But I think the best way to experience the barrier like it’s a physical and a mental barrier and just walking across the highway, on a pedestrian bridge or on one of the street bridges, you know, it is an extremely unpleasant experience. And for many people, like what we remind folks and how it ties back to some of our other campaigns, like winter sidewalk shoveling, is it’s an inaccessible for for a lot of people if you go there during the winter. These are some of the worst maintained places. Many of these bridges are not ADA accessible. They can be like hundreds of yards apart…

Ian R. Buck: [00:20:44] Mhmmm.

Alex Burns: [00:20:44] …at the crossings. So it truly is. Yeah. A trench and a divide for the communities through which it runs.

Ian R. Buck: [00:20:50] Yeah, well, living in Frogtown I’ve had to like develop very specific routes for getting north-south, you know, in my neighborhood because like the, the, the ideal places to like cross the highway don’t always line up with like the ideal places to cross University Avenue and like I’m zigzagging around and it’s yeah. Huge, huge barrier to, to accessing anything else that’s south of me.

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:21:16] I think that something that has also occurred to us and just in terms of how to describe it, is that when we bring these ideas to the community and we’re describing what you’re talking about, a scar or a barrier, it has helped folks understand that it is also an economic barrier. You know, a lot of the things that you’re doing, if you multiply them times being an economically marginalized person, wherever you are on that spectrum, it also creates a lot of problems, right? And so whether we’re talking about health issues, or access to employment, or getting to those amenities, it is about an economy that used to exist there that mostly benefited the community, that should be restored and also re-imagined in a way that, you know, when we’re talking about reparative justice, it’s not just bringing things back to normal, but also bringing them up to a point where it’s actually having a positive impact on communities that were marginalized then, that existed within those neighborhoods, but also the communities that were negatively impacted. We take these barriers and we put them at the end of a spectrum where the end point is a positive vision. And we give folks an opportunity to engage with something, with the full understanding of how it works, and how it’s impacted them, but also that if they take these steps and they become engaged and they take action, it might give them an opportunity to see something in their neighborhoods that really hasn’t happened in decades.

Ian R. Buck: [00:22:51] Yeah, and I’ve heard you guys talk before about like the intentionality of creating the the renderings of like what the Twin Cities Boulevard could look like, and how that is intended, not as like a final design or anything, but like as a catalyst for allowing people in the community to look at this thing and like, see, “Oh yeah, this could be so much better. This place could be a desirable place to spend time, rather than just a highway to get through.” And, you know, I got to say, like like I myself didn’t really think of removing 94 as something that was, like, politically feasible until I saw the renderings. And then and then like, like I was captured and I was like, “Ooh, I’m going, I want to work my butt off to, like, get this to happen.” So, it certainly worked on me.

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:23:47] Yeah, I think that’s right. And you know, one other thing that kind of comes to mind there as well is that sometimes a question comes up of how the these ideas emerge, and especially from folks who sometimes try to push back against the idea that some individual community, that member that is like in a serious situation that’s being impacted by this freeway, somehow should have the responsibility to work out the transportation expertise to imagine a transportation solution for their entire neighborhood, and then get their whole neighborhood together- all of them were struggling because of this freeway – and put this proposal forward. And, you know, so if you kind of keep following that logic as saying, well, things are bad for you, so why don’t you pick yourself up and figure out how to make it better, and also create the social movement to solve this problem for yourself. And what we’re saying is, look, like everything needs to be shaped through community consent and community engagement, but we have a certain expertise in transportation and we have the ability and the resources to build partnerships and do research and gather information to at least create the framework, just like you’re describing, so that when we go talk to you at the door, we make it easy for you to become engaged with this and help shape it, obviously, and then give you a total sense of ownership, because our goal is to basically give it over to the community, for the community to take it over and and take it to the finish line. But! We have this privilege and power as a transportation organization that we should be using and putting to good use so that the starting point isn’t zero, you know, and so that we’re we’re handing something over where they can stand on our shoulders and they can see us and feel as as a shield for decision makers and see us sort of standing up for them and looking out for them. And all we’ve got to do is say like, “We don’t want anything in return. We want you to benefit. But to the degree that we know, it can be this good.” And so, like Alex always says, expanding community imagination. Our mission is to make sure that imagination is expanded to the limit, to the degree that is plausible, by using our expertise to frame all of that. And so I think that’s a great point. And I think we think about that a lot. It’s like we have no stakeholders, other than the people that we door-knock, you know what I mean? But but we want to make sure that our expertise is put to good use. And the best way to put it forward is through positive visioning that people can just stand on and and do just a few little things to make sure that it works really well.

Ian R. Buck: [00:26:36] All right. So that was the Twin Cities Boulevard Project. Let’s talk also about the Bring Back Sixth Project. This regards the Olson Memorial Highway up in North Minneapolis, which is a neighborhood that I’m not nearly as familiar with, so can you talk about that a little?

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:26:54] So the interesting thing about Bring Back Sixth is, it starts with the Harrison Neighborhood Association, the Blue Line Coalition, putting an effort to repair a lot of the harms that have happened on the North Side in that area, and the expectation that the Blue Line extension was going to go through Olson Memorial Highway and with it, safety improvements and housing and commercial development was going to come with it. It didn’t happen, and the safety improvements never came, but the announcement of the extension alone led to displacement and gentrification. To the best of my understanding, hundreds of families, a lot of them immigrant families, and as you might know or might not know, that part of North Minneapolis has always been actually sort of a place for a lot of different immigrant groups to stop in and make it their home. And so it really just started with a conversation about what safety improvements were possible. And we sat together with Harrison Neighborhood Association and figured out that a lot was possible. And that led for us to launch a campaign with shared expertise, because HNA has so much experience with housing and some with land use that we were able to roll out a vision for a restored Sixth Avenue North where we could explain how safety improvements could be brought in through a first phase in such a way that allowed for a second phase to emerge with a reconstruction of Olson Memorial Highway to Sixth Avenue North that then facilitated returning this land for community benefit. You know, historically, it’s interesting, one of the things that we learned through the partnership is that this community was the subject of displacement and disinvestment and destruction about 20 years before the Rondo neighborhood, and it’s just sort of been a little bit erased.

Ian R. Buck: [00:29:02] I’ve heard a little about a pop up museum that you guys have that you’ve brought to some like festivals and community get-togethers, and it has a lot of like stations to, to learn about the history of, of Sixth, and uh, what we could be bringing back, which sounds like a really cool and unique way of advocating for a project like this.

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:29:26] We initially asked for a closure for an Open Streets.

Ian R. Buck: [00:29:29] That would be dope!

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:29:31] Yeah. And so but I think the best part about it is like doing advocacy in such a way where people can come to an event and engage with an idea that is bookended by what used to be there, clear understanding of the intentional, racist destruction of that neighborhood that – we didn’t just get interstates and highways – they were intentionally placed on top of Black Americans all over the country, and the same was here in Minnesota. And then for them to be able to have that emotional experience and then sort of come back to the campaign that we’ve been having, and imagine sort of like, what things could look like in the future – through a block party, through music and through food – and come out thinking “This is possible for us.” It’s been a great process and I think something we’re going to continue doing and hopefully along the I-94 corridor as well.

Ian R. Buck: [00:30:29] I hear that that that museum is going to be making an appearance at other Open Streets events, right?

Alex Burns: [00:30:34] Definitely. Yeah. We hope to have it at at every Open Streets, right?

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:30:38] Yep. It’s cool.

Alex Burns: [00:30:39] And yeah. So definitely another reason to come check out Open Streets. I mean, something that people within the community like definitely know, but I think the way that we tell this story, it’s as if the book of the highway’s harms has been closed. And it’s just like, something we look back on and it’s like, “What a shame,” you know? But obviously the history like is directly tied to, like, the outcomes and like the reality that we’re in today. And collectively, as a community, we have an opportunity both on I-94, and on Olson Memorial Highway, to reckon with that history and decide if that infrastructure and those outcomes are acceptable to us, or if we need to take a different approach.

Ian R. Buck: [00:31:26] If we’re just like constantly lamenting, you know, the terrible history that we have and not taking steps to repair that harm, like, then what the hell are we doing here?

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:31:36] Anyone can talk about what’s wrong and anyone can learn to understand that. And that’s an important part, you know – awareness, education, re-information, you know, if you’re engaging with things that have been whitewashed – But but the real question is, you know, what are you willing to do about it? And we feel like as an organization, we can create really strong incentives, through what we know and what we understand, for folks to feel like they can do something about it. And our job is to kind of start that.

Ian R. Buck: [00:32:06] So you mentioned like. Like bringing that energy into the community. Let’s talk about like what the strategies are here that we’re using. I know that we’re door-knocking in the neighborhoods that are adjacent to like I-94. I’ve participated in a few door-knocking sessions. It seems like we’re in kind of phase one right now of like making sure that people are aware of this opportunity to reshape our community into something better. Like what comes next? What do we what are we up to?

Alex Burns: [00:32:39] If the community comes together and stands up for something like we absolutely believe it will happen and and that’s what we’re prepared to do and we’re not going to stop until that does. But I think in terms of some near term timelines, as that movement proceeds with Rethinking I-94, it’s a bit different because there is this established project that’s working its way through the federal and state environmental impact statement process, the EIS process. So, one exciting update that some listeners of the podcast may have heard, but we did get a letter from the interim MNDOT Commissioner saying that a Highway two Boulevard conversion will be considered in the upcoming project options for Rethinking I-94. So it’s really important that that not only is it’s the Twin Cities Boulevard that they’re considering, but also that the evaluation criteria, so basically like the things that they use to evaluate the different options, are prioritizing community health, are prioritizing economic opportunity, are prioritizing reduced climate emissions, prioritizing better transportation options for people who can’t afford a car, et cetera. If those options are prioritized, then a highway to boulevard conversion will clearly stand out. If they are prioritizing average traffic speed that they’re forecasting in 2055, then that’s just not going to happen. So, you know, to put it simply put the needs of highway adjacent communities first, and and that’s what we’re focused on in the near term with this project.

Ian R. Buck: [00:34:21] I’ve heard that the Federal Highway Administration has been… Like there’s movement at that level to give money to state DOTs who want to do like urban highway removal projects. Is that right? Have we. Have we heard anything on that front?

Alex Burns: [00:34:38] Yeah, that’s a perfect transition, actually, because that was the other near-term thing. As part of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, there was $1 billion set aside for a program specifically to fund both the planning and the construction of highway removal projects called the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program. This is such a critical opportunity for Minneapolis and Saint Paul to submit a joint application when the program opens this June to apply for $2 million that could bring in experts that aren’t fully ingrained in the highway-industrial complex, that aren’t just going to assume that the freeway is going to be rebuilt, that are actually going to take a holistic approach at analyzing what could a highway to boulevard conversion and reparative justice on this corridor look like and then arm that city and and community members with that information as this project proceeds. So we feel that that is a critical step that the cities both take that action. And if people go to twincitiesboulevard.org right now and click on the Get Involved section, they can send an email to Minneapolis and Saint Paul decision makers asking them to, among other things, support that action. We describe these campaigns as living and breathing. So, this is a high-level vision for a better future without the highway, but this is always going to be driven by community feedback and community consent. So one of the tools that we have to do that is by asking people at the doors about specific parts of that vision, kind of like walking them through and then aggregating that data. So I think for the Twin Cities Boulevard, we’re at about 500 people that have filled out that survey and still need to do a full deep-dive, then we plan on presenting the first wave of that information at a community forum that we’ll host in late June. Correct? We’ll get the exact date on that. But but some of the themes that have emerged for me, I think a few things. First, I think people are well aware of how the highway impacts them. And there was a lot of people that spoke about, because we’re door-knocking in the communities really close to the highway, they talk about the noise. They talk about a long legacy of health impacts like asthma and, and cancer. The other resulting impacts from like the toxic air pollution that comes from the highway corridor. Also, I think like in general, people have been super excited about just the idea that, like, the highway doesn’t have to exist and a few things in particular that we’ve seen broad community support for – First, having those amenities back within their neighborhood. A lot of people talked about how the specific communities along the highway are like pretty far away from walkable grocery stores, walkable pharmacies, child care, just like your daily needs that some neighborhoods have an abundance of, but places along the highway, it’s just like, you know, a lot of people have to drive, or if they don’t have a car, find another way to get to these basic needs, like at a suburban box store or something. Those are things that used to exist right in the community and people were super excited about seeing those things come back. The other thing, I think, that seemed to really resonate was having access to rapid transit service and bikeway, connecting the two cities. In particular, there seems to be broad consent for zero-fare transit. So having this transit corridor, in the heart of our region, connecting the two major cities, be zero fare so that it would be fully dedicated lane, you would not have to pay to get on, and that is truly like the gold standard in our opinion of making transportation access affordable and accessible for everyone. Quite a few people specifically called out the zero-fare aspect is something that they were excited about.

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:39:00] The other thing I would add is folks do talk about housing, especially when we meet folks who have been displaced by the freeway. So every so often there will be an anecdote about where they used to live before I-94 was there.

Ian R. Buck: [00:39:15] Mmm.

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:39:15] What’s happened to them? So and that’s, again, an important thing to remember. It wasn’t that long ago that there are still people who are living those harms from day one.

Ian R. Buck: [00:39:27] All right. If audience members want to help out with these projects, where can they go? What can they do?

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:39:34] Yeah. Go to the website, look through both of the projects and definitely take the action steps. It takes no time to fill out a survey and send out an email to decision makers and to anyone that hasn’t been following our work. Decision makers and elected officials really love getting the tens of thousands of emails that they are sent.

Ian R. Buck: [00:39:59] [Laughing]

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:39:59] So they’ll be excited to get a few more.

Ian R. Buck: [00:40:02] And the form makes it super easy. Like I clicked on the link and it just like auto filled, like, here’s a suggested email. You can edit it as much as you want to, or as little, and like it sends it off to the right people who represent you. Awesome. Alex, José Antonio, thanks for joining us and I’ll see you guys around.

José Antonio Zayas Cabán: [00:40:21] Thank you.

Alex Burns: [00:40:22] Sounds good. Thanks, Ian. Appreciate it. 

[00:40:24] [Music]

Ian R. Buck: [00:40:30] And highway removal projects aren’t just limited to the Twin Cities area. We’ve also got some cool projects taking shape in places like Duluth. So I got together with Jordan van der Hagen to talk about the Highway 61 Revisited concept in downtown Duluth.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:40:51] My name is Jordan van der Hagen. I founded a group in Duluth called the Duluth Waterfront Collective a few years ago. And since then, I’ve actually moved to Minneapolis, but I’m still keeping involved. But I also am working as a landscape designer and urban designer for Damon Farber. The back story is that when I was interning in Duluth for a summer job, it was the year before my graduate thesis, and so I decided to take on the Lake Avenue overpass in Duluth for the purpose of kind of like identifying that as like the must-be-fixed connection between the waterfront and downtown areas. And that’s what I did my thesis on, and that was at North Dakota State in Fargo. So I completed that, and then moved back to Duluth afterwards and got a full-time job there. And during that time I just started to meet people in the community who kind of felt the same way, you know? Like a lot of people in Duluth are kind of, you know, aware of the fact that 35 creates this sort of disconnect. And so as I was getting to know people, I found a lot of people had similar ideas. So we kind of started having these like monthly design charettes, and that’s how the group kind of came to be. And it slowly kind of expanded outwards from there in terms of both like, who was involved, but also just like, the area we were looking at grew…

Ian R. Buck: [00:42:20] Yeah.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:42:20] …to be more than just the bridge and kind of the whole downtown stretch.

Ian R. Buck: [00:42:25] That sounds that sounds like some fun parties. Yeah.

Alex Burns: [00:42:28] Well, yeah, it was cool. And, I mean, it was an interesting way to get to know people just because there were, you know, so many different folks who had different like I mean, people saw different things in it. There were different reasons for people to want to help out, whether it was, you know, people who were, you know, big bikers or people who were into like storm water remediation,

Ian R. Buck: [00:42:51] Mmm.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:42:52] Things like that, or people who are into like the economic development side of things. As we kept going, I mean, it really started to bring together a pretty diverse crowd of folks who came together around the idea.

Ian R. Buck: [00:43:06] Yeah, that’s what I’ve noticed about a lot of these freeway removal campaigns is like there’s a little bit in there for everybody. Right?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:43:12] Yeah, for truth. Or at least there should be, I mean, if they’re done well…

Ian R. Buck: [00:43:16] Right.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:43:16] …I think that there’s plenty of space to find things that, you know, everyone can take something from.

Ian R. Buck: [00:43:22] Mm hmm. Yeah. So my, my interactions with the area mostly are as a cyclist, you know…

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:43:30] Mhmm.

Ian R. Buck: [00:43:31] …and like coming up into Duluth via like the Willard Munger trail…

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:43:35] Yeah, it’s beautiful.

Ian R. Buck: [00:43:36] …and then and then of course, the trail ends, you know…

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:43:39] Yeah!

Ian R. Buck: [00:43:39] …and your town and, and, you know, the optimal route to get like, into downtown Duluth involves like, like you’re on a street for a little while and then you get on to a trail and then you get on to like a pedestrian bridge that has this crazy T-junction like above the freeway?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:43:57] Oh, yeah. That’s another thing that a lot of people have been like. People who call it, I’ve heard it referred to as like it feels like you’re going to a prison or something like that…

Ian R. Buck: [00:44:07] [Laughing] Yeah!

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:44:07] …because it’s this concrete platform with fences. And then you’re right, you have to make like a sharp left…

Ian R. Buck: [00:44:13] Mhmm.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:44:13] …into the downtown area. So that’s something that we’re also looking at in part of our scope.

Ian R. Buck: [00:44:19] But yeah, because, because there’s a trail that starts like, underneath, the freeway.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:44:23] Right. Yeah. Well technically that’s the, the [Duluth] Cross City Trail is what it’s called. And so their ultimate goal is to connect up to the Munger Trail in West Duluth.

Ian R. Buck: [00:44:35] Nice.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:44:35] But like you said, there are still some gaps that they’re trying to figure out.

Ian R. Buck: [00:44:39] Yeah. Yeah. Although I was impressed, like last summer when they were doing construction on one of the streets. That usually is the connection and they had like a really good bike detour.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:44:50] Yeah!

Ian R. Buck: [00:44:51] Of like a like temporary two-way bike lanes…

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:44:53] Yep.

Ian R. Buck: [00:44:54] …on another parallel street.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:44:55] Yeah. No, that’s great. That’s probably the best streetscape in Duluth right now is it’s Superior Street, but it’s going through Lincoln Park and yeah, I mean, it’s just a really good example and it’s nice to see, you know, an example of that in Duluth, because right now there aren’t a lot of places that have that sort of treatment.

Ian R. Buck: [00:45:16] Right.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:45:17] Even if it’s temporary, I hope they end up keeping it.

Ian R. Buck: [00:45:19] [Laughing]

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:45:19] But originally before the freeway construction that they’re doing, that trail went right along the freeway. And I think it’s honestly better to have it run next to all the businesses that people are trying to get to.

Ian R. Buck: [00:45:31] Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. That that street seemed like, you know, a like a nice, walkable, you know, lots of businesses that are, like, right there on the sidewalk front.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:45:42] Mm hmm. Yeah. It’s really kind of made it feel very vibrant, in my opinion. But yeah.

Ian R. Buck: [00:45:50] And then, I mean, the the tourist area that people always think about when it comes to Duluth is the lakefront, you know, where…

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:45:58] Canal Park.

Ian R. Buck: [00:45:59] Canal Park, Grandma’s Cafe, et cetera, et cetera, which is I mean, that’s like one of the, the major points of the freeway removal, uh, proposal, right. Is that like the freeway just cuts off all of Canal Park from the rest of the city.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:46:16] Right. Yeah. It’s really kind of divided it. It’s almost like, you know, that thing. Where you have the Galapagos Islands, and they’re the birds that are on different islands, and they kind of specialize into these unique forms because they’re geographically separated. Obviously, it’s not quite like that. But similarly, yeah, Canal Park is really just become this tourist-only place that’s really developed to cater to those folks, whereas downtown is kind of like residents-only.

Ian R. Buck: [00:46:45] Mhmmm.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:46:47] And really, there should be more of an intermingling of the two. Just to make sure residents can access the amenities of the waterfront, but also so that some of that tourist activity can help revive some of the businesses that are downtown, too.

Ian R. Buck: [00:47:01] Yeah. And even like in its current iteration, it feels like Canal Park doesn’t really serve, like tourists, super well either. Because, like, the freeway there dictates that like anybody who wants to go and walk around in Canal Park, they’re going to be driving their car into Canal Park…

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:47:22] Right.

Ian R. Buck: [00:47:22] …finding somewhere to park and then walking around, right?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:47:25] Yeah.

Ian R. Buck: [00:47:25] Because you’re not going to walk across the freeway from anywhere else in town to get there.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:47:31] Right.

Ian R. Buck: [00:47:32] And so it’s like it’s it’s this terrible mixture of, like, frustrated drivers who are just, like, trying to find a, you know, a place to park that’s cheap and, you know, like [laughs]…

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:47:40] Right.

Ian R. Buck: [00:47:41] …and then there’s a bunch of people who are walking around and getting in the way and like, “rah!”.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:47:44] Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the things that we’ve kind of tried to focus on is trying to eliminate, you know, congestion in Canal Park. Because of the freeway, like you’re saying, you know, you’ve got like one key entry point to the whole neighborhood.

Ian R. Buck: [00:47:59] So the… the name of your website right is highway61duluth.com 

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:48:06] That’s right.

Ian R. Buck: [00:48:06] Which which you know is. Alluding to the fact that, like, you know, U.S. Highway 61 existed long before the interstates. Right? 

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:48:15] Right.

Ian R. Buck: [00:48:15] And and that went through downtown Duluth. And so you’re trying to kind of bring us back to something more akin to what you would see with a US highway that becomes like the main street of whatever town it’s going through?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:48:30] Yeah, exactly. You hit the nail on the head. It’s taking it from, you know, this sort of freeway that ignores the context of what it’s going through and just kind of, you know, maintains this controlled access at all costs, and thinking of, you know, what would a highway… like what would be the best version of that in an urban area? How could we make that more integrated into the environment and, you know, allow it to still serve its purpose? It’s still kind of a really important spine for, you know, freight movement and people who are traveling through Duluth because there isn’t really another way around the city that’s convenient.

Ian R. Buck: [00:49:14] There’s kind of a lake in the way.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:49:16] Well, that’s yeah, that’s part of it, too. Yeah. 

Ian R. Buck: [00:49:18] [Laughing]

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:49:18] It’s geographically very, you know, difficult to build in Duluth so.

Ian R. Buck: [00:49:23] Oh and then hills on the other side.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:49:25] Yeah, right. Yeah. So it’s tough but you’re definitely, you know, it’s a role that that’s still going to need to be served in some way.

Ian R. Buck: [00:49:35] Mmm.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:49:35] But we think that, you know, through traffic probably isn’t as much of the traffic as people might think. Once you actually start looking at, you know, who’s local, who’s moving from like just nearby neighborhoods. And then also if you can get like the Northern Lights Express and other, like, solid transit options, and improving the biking and walking systems, you know? That’s going to be that many more people who are no longer driving through this area as well. And even today, I mean, it’s not a lot of traffic compared to most freeways, I think. There’s like a traffic count of 32,000 daily trips, which is not a lot, especially for a freeway. And there are even some local streets in Duluth that are pretty close to that number.

Ian R. Buck: [00:50:22] Yeah. Wait, 32,000 a day. I feel like we have county roads here, like, the Twin Cities that handle more traffic.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:50:29] Yeah. You do. I’ve looked into. For sure.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:50:32] I think I-94 for reference is lot like 150,000 or something like that.

Ian R. Buck: [00:50:36] [Sighing] Yeah.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:50:38] So it’s, it’s a different ball game for sure.

Ian R. Buck: [00:50:41] But and that actually, I mean, that does make me think about the fact that, you know, here in the Twin Cities for like the the Rethinking I-94, you know, Twin Cities Boulevard Project. Right? That is a proposal to like get rid of a section of freeway that is a through-connection, right?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:51:02] Mhmm.

Ian R. Buck: [00:51:02] You know, it goes straight through the Twin Cities whereas like Highway 35 in Duluth, like that’s where the freeway ends.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:51:09] Yeah.

Ian R. Buck: [00:51:10] You know?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:51:10] That’s another thing that’s probably a pretty defining difference between the two. You’re right. I mean, it goes a mile beyond the area we’re looking at. And if if it weren’t for the fact that it actually is pretty reasonable for that last mile where it’s going through tunnels and caps, we’d probably be advocating for that to be removed as well. I think there’s opportunities to take a similar treatment beyond this area, like where it comes out of the Rose Garden Tunnel. It goes through the Endion neighborhood, which is where I used to live, and does the similar sort of thing that it does in downtown where there aren’t, you know, good options for getting across it. And it’s like right on the lakefront at that point, too. So I think you could take a similar approach there and maybe even have the traffic go on to London Road a little bit sooner and then just like convert all of that right of way to just purely park space but.

Ian R. Buck: [00:52:12] Oh yeah, right on the on the lakefront?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:52:15] Yeah,

Ian R. Buck: [00:52:15] Yeah.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:52:16] But yeah, you’re right. I mean it. People say, you know, we won’t be able to get along without the freeway, but it turns into a two lane road just a couple of miles past this area. And, you know, I don’t think anyone’s going to act like that’s perfect because anyone who lives on London Road will tell you, you know, having to wait hours just to get out of your driveway isn’t fun. But it shows that, you know, that even that size of roadway is capable of handling the through-traffic that we get. So…

Ian R. Buck: [00:52:46] So on the on the website, you know, we’ve got this kind of rendering of what, at least one spot in the Highway 61 Revisited vision could be.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:52:56] And, you know, it’s a living concept. You know, you hear hearing me talking about this is like we’ve got new things, you know, and not everything on the website shows a consistent vision of what this is because of that, because it is an all-volunteer effort.

Ian R. Buck: [00:53:13] Mmm.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:53:13] So it’s kind of like as I have time to go and update stuff, I’ll do that. But you know, I think that was the thing we were very clear about right from the beginning is like, you know, this hasn’t been vetted by the community yet. So we’re putting this out. You know, when we first released it online, we were just like, “We’re putting this out with the intention of getting feedback.” You know? And I think just that process of hearing from people has made it so much stronger.

Ian R. Buck: [00:53:41] And you’ve had some positive responses from local politicians, right?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:53:47] Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, we’ve got we’ve got support from a number of people, you know, the like local legislature level and you know, in the city administration and city council, there’s been a lot of support. And so, I mean, I think I think everyone’s kind of on board with the idea of, you know, “We can do better than like, what we have right now.” You know? I don’t know if everyone’s necessarily on board with the vision. I think politically people are excited about it, but as far as the community goes, there are a lot of folks who are still skeptical of the idea of how this would work?

Ian R. Buck: [00:54:24] Right.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:54:24] Or the people who, you know, use the freeway to commute across town every day. There’s a lot of skepticism amongst those people. So I think, you know, what we’ve really advocated for isn’t like, you know, “Build this. This is perfect as it is.” You know? “Do it!” It’s more so like, “Look at what’s possible. Like, think about all these things we could do. Don’t you think we should be studying that?” And that’s what we’ve been pushing on MNDOT to consider.

Ian R. Buck: [00:54:53] So what’s next? What do we got coming up for the Duluth Waterfront Collective?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:54:57] Yeah. So this summer, MNDOT is undertaking an I-35 corridor study.

Ian R. Buck: [00:55:05] Mmhmm.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:55:05] And thanks to all of the people who. Who have kind of rallied around this idea. We were able to advocate for kind of like a high level assessment of this idea to be included in that. So we’re looking forward to seeing what comes of that. I don’t think it’s going to be like the “Let’s do it, or let’s not” answer, but I think it will help better understand how this process can work out. Because, again, you know, they’re looking at the entire corridor from the top of the hill, to where it ends on London Road…

Ian R. Buck: [00:55:40] Okay.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:55:40] …and trying to figure out, you know, what do we have to spend to keep this in shape, what projects are coming up? What are the concerns in the community? And so I think, you know, really what we’re trying to focus on now is less so, you know, this sort of community design approach that we’ve been doing the past few years and more so just, you know, advocacy around making sure people know when to show up to those events, and when to make their voices heard. I think it’s going to be a long process to get this to where we want it to go. But if we can keep people aware of the processes, I think, you know, that’ll be a really important factor in how we keep this moving forward.

Ian R. Buck: [00:56:23] One of the aspects of these designs that really excites me is the idea of putting more housing developments in the space where the freeway used to be.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:56:32] I mean, yeah, if you look at the employment density of Duluth, you know, like the downtown area, it has the city, county offices, Essential Health, like a lot of the biggest employers are all downtown and there’s nowhere to live downtown. Like when I moved to Duluth, I wanted to live downtown because that’s where I worked, but it was impossible to find anything. And, you know, you think about how many people who are currently commuting from, you know, Lakeside, or West Duluth, or Hermantown, who might want to be living closer to their jobs. You know, if all of this housing came available and they suddenly moved and had opportunities to move, you know, closer, that’s that many less vehicles that are on the highway now and people who are walking and suddenly are able to have healthier options for how they get around the city. I think, you know, it just is one of those things that kind of, you know, multiplies on itself when you start to implement it.

Ian R. Buck: [00:57:32] Right.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:57:32] Where you’re bringing in all these efficiencies that a freeway just doesn’t provide. Like this can help alleviate some of the demand we see in Duluth, if we’re suddenly opening up this 40 acres. And if we don’t do that, you know, that demand pressure is going to find other places to be built.

Ian R. Buck: [00:57:48] Right.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:57:48] And it might be straight up replacing people’s homes, which I think would be, you know, a far worse outcome than displacing, you know, a freeway.

Ian R. Buck: [00:57:57] Right.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:57:57] Or a few lanes of concrete, you know?

Ian R. Buck: [00:58:01] “Displacing freeways” makes me think of a potential, like, slogan here, right?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:58:04] Yea?

Ian R. Buck: [00:58:05] Because, like, we like to say, “Housing for people, not for cars!” right?

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:58:08] Yeah.

Ian R. Buck: [00:58:08] “Displacement for freeways, not for people!”

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:58:10] Yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah. I should make another graphic about that or something like that going on. I love that!

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:58:18] I think the final thing I would say is. If you look at a city, like Duluth, and you say, like, “What are the top problems that the city is up against?” And not everyone’s going to agree on what that is. You know, it might be like, you know, we need to increase like wages for people or we need to make our city resilient to climate change. And, you know, we need to handle storm water or, you know, we need to make sure that there are people who are currently experiencing homelessness who can have homes. You know, no one’s going to say like, “We’re in a crisis of commute times here in Duluth!” you know? Yeah. So, like, why are we devoting so much land in our city that could be productive for all of those other concerns in terms of solving them, to something that’s not even a problem?

Ian R. Buck: [00:59:11] Mhmm.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:59:11] And I think if you think about it that way, no matter where you are here, in Saint Paul, or in Minneapolis, or in Duluth, or wherever. You know, I think that’s really how we have to start thinking about how we use land in our cities – is how can it best solve the pressing crises of our times? And, you know, giving people a place to sit in idle in traffic is not helping anybody.

Ian R. Buck: [00:59:38] Right. Right. Yeah.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:59:41] That’s my closing thought, I guess.

Ian R. Buck: [00:59:42] There we go.

Ian R. Buck: [00:59:44] Thanks for joining us, Jordan.

Jordan van der Hagen: [00:59:45] Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having me.

Ian R. Buck: [00:59:47] [Music] Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Streets.mn podcast. This show is released under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, Non-derivative License, so feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it and you are not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Eric Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. This episode was hosted and edited by me, Ian R. Buck, with transcript by the indomitable Mike Allen. Christy Marsden is our awesome guest booker and technical assistance is provided by the super-professional Brian Mitchell. If you’re able to help make sure this team gets paid for the hard work that they do, please consider donating at https://streets.mn/donate. We really appreciate it. If you have feedback or ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn. In particular, we’re currently working on an episode about the Evie carshare service. So if you’re an Evie user, we’d love to hear your experiences with it. How does it integrate with your life? What has been your favorite experience? Any frustrations? Record a quick voice memo and send it in to podcast@streets.mn. Until next time, take care!

About Ian R Buck

Co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition, podcaster, and teacher. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation. "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

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