CLIC Recommended 2018-22 City Capitol Budget Includes Important Investments, but Falls Short on Pedestrian Safety

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2017 Capitol Budget Requests

As another marathon CLIC (Capitol Long-Range Improvement Committee) session wraps up, I thought it’d be valuable to share some of the projects that came up through the process and were proposed for funding or not, and what that desicion process looked like. I recommend reading this blog post to familiarize yourself with the CLIC process before we begin!

A big takeway from this years process was that despite new projects for pedestrian and bicycle safety brought to CLIC this year, the city is not funding pedestrian infrastructure and safety at a level that will begin to have an impact on making our roads safer for the most vulnerable users.

I’m not going to go through each of the 105 projects that CLIC rated and considered funding this year; you can read more about each one in this years Capitol Budget Requests (CBR) and see where they landed in this years CLIC Report (PDF). I will just highlight a few things that stood out this year particularly for people who walk and bike, and which hopefully can serve to further illuminate the process, and the importance of being engaged with CLIC as a way to improve our streets and city.

Hits and misses 

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 PV114 - U of M Protected Bikeways  

One of the key takeaways for me this year was that despite the City ordinance directing an additional $21.2 million to street paving and reconstruction projects, the Public Works funding requests for pedestrian infrastructure don't come close to meeting the real needs we have, and overall there is a lack of investment in pedestrian facilities and safety.

One area that the City is failing to fund adequately is around ADA accessibility for our sidewalks. PV104 - ADA Ramp Replacement Program is being recommended for $500,000 funding per year ($2.5 million over 5 years), which will only be enough to fund around 200 pedestrian ramps per year. According to the CBR, Minneapolis “has nearly 16,000 sidewalk corners, many of which are deficient or non-compliant with current ADA design standards.”  By deprioritizing funding for this project, we are in essence saying that it’s ok that some corners may not see improvements for 80 years! CLIC also includes a comment in the report about how these ramps are being constructed:

CLIC recommends that the City work to incorporate pedestrian safety improvements such as bump outs as part of this program when curbs are being reconstructed. Given the City’s renewed focus on creating safe pedestrian spaces, shortening crossing distances and traffic calming should be a part of any pedestrian realm reconstruction. CLIC had also recommended an accelerated pace to this program last year, and would again recommend this be rolled out faster in order to provide access to our sidewalks for all users.

There are some new projects this year that move the needle a bit on accessibility and pedestrian safety. SWK02 - Sidewalk Gaps is one that came out of conversations with the Pedestrian Advisory Committee and advocates who spoke at the CLIC public hearing last year. Specifically, the project “…will work toward filling sidewalk gaps by installing public sidewalks where they are missing on one or both sides of the street.” While the $150,000 per year ($750,000 over 5 years) will be a good start, the CBR also notes that there are 108 miles of sidewalk gaps in Minneapolis, meaning we need to substantially ramp up this program if it’s to have any sort of meaningful impact.

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 BIK28 - Protected Bikeways  

We get a bit more funding for intersections with a new project, BP004 - Intersection and Crossing Improvements which “…will provide improved street crossings, with a focus on unsignalized intersections. This program will focus on hardscape elements of street crossings, including but not limited to, pedestrian bumpouts, center medians, and intersection realignments.”

“The purpose of this program is to simplify intersection crossings, reduce street crossing distances, make pedestrians more visible, and slow turning vehicle movements. This program acknowledges the importance of street crossings as a critical component of the walking experience in Minneapolis.”

The request for this program in the CBR was for $600,000 a year ($3 million over 5 years) which would have started making a dent in unsafe intersections. (Again, given the large number of such intersections in our city, it’s unclear how much of an impact the program will have in the short term.) Unfortunately, due to limited funding and competing priorities, CLIC chose to fund this project for even less than the requested amount; $100,000 in the first year, which increases over time to a total of $1.3 million over the 5 years of the project. Given the that we hit a 25-year high number of pedestrian injuries and deaths recently, funding safer pedestrian crossings is critically important. You can let the Mayor and City Council know how important fully funding safer pedestrian infrastructure is by signing the Our Streets Minneapolis online postcard calling for safer crossings for people biking, walking, and rolling. The CLIC budget is a recommendation, and the City Council and the Mayor can adopt or change the proposed funding as they see fit. The next step in the process is the Mayor proposes a capital budget in the next couple months and then the City Council approves a final budget in December - so there's still time to make sure your voice is heard and that this is fully funded!

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PV116 - North Loop Pedestrian Improvements

Unfortunately, not fully committing to pedestrian improvements is a bit of a theme with some of this years projects; a good example of this is PV116 - North Loop Pedestrian Improvements. While this project will improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety at 22 different intersections, the project completely neglects the most dangerous street of all - Washington Avenue. Washington is a Hennepin County road, and by not making any improvements there it makes the project substantially less effective than it could be. Again, CLIC offered a pointed comment here:

County roads in Minneapolis typically are wider commercial streets that have the largest pedestrian crossing distances, and Washington Avenue in this project exhibits these characteristics. CLIC is concerned that this project is not addressing the largest, highest-volume street in a fast growing neighborhood. CLIC urges Public Works to continue collaboration with the County and to seek additional traffic calming measures, such as bump outs at intersections that improve pedestrian safety along Washington Avenue. 

One great project for pedestrians coming in 2019 is the $3.5 million PV115 - Emerson-Fremont Ave N Ped Enhancements. This is a very big project, involving curb extensions at 20 intersections, ADA-compliant ramps at 64 corners, new crosswalk markings, pedestrian countdown timers, and 4 pedestrian crossing medians. The project also moves the existing bike lanes to the other side of the street and upgrades them to protected facilities (with painted buffers and bollards).

This project is being prioritized because it will be part of the D-Line ABRT Metro Transit is building out, and because twenty-five crashes involving pedestrians occurred in the project area between 2010 and 2013. A large portion of the project ($1.060 million) is being paid for through federal grants as well.

Finally there are some great bike projects coming in the next few years. The big one is BIK28 - Protected Bikeways which builds on the Protected Bikeway Update to the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan. Funding for bikeways ramps up in the next few years nearly doubling by 2020 before dropping back down again. You can see a map of proposed projects to be built in the next few years on the right.

PV114 - U of M Protected Bikeways will also create some much-needed bikeways through and around the U of M campus, and with projects like the University/4th St bikeway and Oak Street extension in the works, will help create a network of safe bike routes in an area that sees very high numbers of people on bikes.

Projects of note

There are a number of larger street reconstruction projects in the recommended budget that offer exciting opportunities for improvements for people who walk and bike. You can see all of them in the report, but some notable projects include:

PV054 - 8th St S This downtown project will reconstruct 8th St from Hennepin Ave to Chicago Ave, and is currently slated for pedestrian level lighting improvements, wider bus stops, and potential Arterial Bus Rapid Transit connections.

PV095 - 4th St N & S This downtown project will reconstruct 4th St (which currently has a counter-flow bus lane and bike lane) and is slated for 2019 reconstruction.

PV098 - Hiawatha Trail Gap This project will connect the Hiawatha Light Rail Trail between East 28th St and East 32nd St, across Lake Street. This project is slated for 2018 construction.

PV113 - 29st St W Phase 2 This project continues the buildout of 29th St, which was built as a shared street. Reconstruction is slated for 2021.

PV118 - Hennepin Ave This project will reconstruct Hennepin Ave downtown from 12th St S to Washington Ave, and could include protected bikeways and pedestrian improvements. Design is scheduled to be finalized in 2018, with reconstruction beginning in 2020.

PV126 - Bryant Ave S A complete reconstruction of Bryant Ave from 50th St W to Lake St is planned for 2021-22. Currently a bicycle boulevard, though future design has not been decided.

PV150 - 1st Ave N This project will substantially widen sidewalks along 1st Ave in 2022, with a number of other pedestrian enhancements as well.

We'll be sure to keep you in the loop as the public engagement process ramps up for these.

What got dropped

Not everything makes the cut, of course, and some bike/ped projects that weren’t ranked as highly by the group didn’t make it in to the final proposed budget. These could still be added in to the adopted budget by the Mayor or the City Council, however CLIC as a whole felt other projects were a more important priority.

One to highlight in particular here:

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 BP002 - Prospect Park Trail  

BP002 - Prospect Park Trail (given 143 points out of 300 in the CLIC ratings)

This $4.3 million project would essentially purchase and rehab a railroad bridge that is being abandoned by the railroad, with the hopes of one day connecting it to the Midtown Greenway and University of Minnesota. While this would be a great connection (and is shown in the 2011 Bicycle Master Plan), the high cost and uncertainty of being able to acquire adjoining land parcels (also owned by the railroad) sunk this project in the ratings.

Now read the report!

The full CLIC report can be downloaded here (PDF). I highly recommend reading through the comments the Committee made; that's where we can really lay out our concerns, objections, or support for various programs. It's a good way to understand why certain things were funded at a higher or lower level this year compared to years past as well.