Irene Fernando

 

1. Do you navigate Minneapolis by bicycle, walking, or in a wheelchair? If so, for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands) and how often? Please indicate how you commute to work.

I often walk to nearby meetings or events, to run errands, and as recreation. My partner and I share a car, and he often drops me off at my current job in downtown Minneapolis. Every week for work I have various meetings around downtown and in St. Paul to which I walk or use transit to commute. Also, when the weather gets warm, I like to hop on a Nice Ride bike.

 

2. Have you ever been transit-dependent or car-free? How do you understand the experiences of residents who don't have the option to drive, particularly children, seniors, and people with a disability?

When I was a student at the University of Minnesota, I was car-free and regularly walked and used transit.

 

3. Describe any past work or accomplishments around the areas of bicycling or walking issues in your community.

 

4. In 2009, Hennepin County adopted a Complete Streets policy to help guide the County’s work to make streets safer for everyone. Would you support implementation of Complete Streets in the County? If so, how? Please also share how you prioritize walking, transit, bicycling, driving, and parking in your decisions.

Yes, I support the implementation of Complete Streets in Hennepin County. I will prioritize a multi-modal transit system including walking, biking, and public transit. To me, accessibility is a priority at every level and right now, nearly a decade after adopting our Complete Streets policy, our streets infrastructure leaves a lot to be done. When it comes to the County, Improving transportation and transit infrastructure is one of the best ways we can improve equity as well as bring people closer together.

 

5. In 2015, Minneapolis adopted a protected bikeway plan that identifies 48 miles of protected bikeways to be prioritized for implementation. (Protected bikeways are a bicycle route where there is a physical barrier between bikes and cars, and have been shown to be safer and more comfortable than unprotected bike lanes.) The County is finishing a study of protected bikeways this year. Do you support implementation of protected bikeways on some Hennepin County roads even if it could mean losing car parking or traffic lanes for cars in some corridors?

It’s clear that the County must prioritize improving pedestrian infrastructure on County roads. The data shows 38 miles of road that must be made safer, and I will make sure that they are prioritized in transportation improvement funding. To do this successfully, we must work closely with municipalities to find the connection between public safety, accessibility, parks, and beautification.

 

6. Fatal and serious injury traffic crashes in Hennepin County are concentrated in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Pedestrian Crash Study found that 80% of pedestrian crashes occurred on 10% of the streets (110 miles), and 38 of those 110 miles are owned by Hennepin County. See pages C-6 and C-7 for data.  What would you do, if anything, to ensure that the County improves safety on these streets?

Yes, protected bikeways improve safety for both cyclists and drivers. Most large thoroughfares are County roads and are often the most efficient way to travel between cities. Investing in protected bike lanes on County roads would increase accessibility in Hennepin County.

 

7. The 2018 County budget includes a total of $85.6 million for roads, bridges, and these walking and biking items. It also includes sales tax funding for transitways. The County currently provides $600,000 a year to support bikeways. This is far short of the $1.5 million a year staff have said is needed to implement the County’s 2040 bike plan by 2040. The County currently provides about $150,000 a year to build new sidewalks on County roads (requiring a 75% local match), $300,000 a year for walking/ADA improvements along streets getting repaved, and $1 million a year from the state for other ADA improvements. Last year, a new transportation safety fund was created, which is funding projects for all modes. It was funded at $2 million for 2018 and $1 million for future years. Would you support spending more, the same amount, or less on building and maintaining bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?

The Commission should make decisions that not only meet our needs by also inspire our behavior. When we have better bikeways and sidewalks, more people choose to commute that way. And when we increase pedestrian traffic, we increase a community’s safety and economic viability. So, yes I support spending more on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. In governing, I believe it is essential we listen to those closest to the work being done. And if projects are receiving only 40% of what staff requested it is clear we need to prioritize such development.

Particularly, I want to invest a lot more in ADA improvements—the number of County intersections that are not ADA compliant remains too high and is a solution we should be implementing more quickly.

 

8. Many Hennepin County roads are plowed by the City of Minneapolis through an agency agreement. The County currently compensates the City only for the costs it incurs by maintaining car lanes on County roads and does not financially support clearing for walking or biking. Hennepin County staff are currently evaluating options for winter maintenance of bikeways and Minneapolis Public Works is currently studying policy options for winter maintenance of both bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. What changes, if any, would you like to see related to winter maintenance of bikeways and sidewalks, including county-managed tax forfeited properties?

I support complete winter maintenance of both bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in addition to plowing roads. The main things I would change are: increasing funding for winter maintenance and investing in protected bike lanes as they are easier to maintain in the winter.

 

9. What do you hope to accomplish to make the County and your district better for walking and bicycling by the end of your term, if you are elected?

By the end of my first term, I hope to have put us on track to meet the 2040 County bike plan, invested in more protected bike lanes including on County roads, and I hope to ensure that every Hennepin County intersection is ADA compliant. To me, much of this is really about public safety. Regular injuries and deaths due to poor design of roadways and pedestrian crossings is unacceptable.

 

DISTRICT SPECIFIC QUESTIONS:

 

a) What specific County-owned corridor and/or street in your District do you feel is most in need of improved pedestrian and/or bicycle infrastructure? What kinds of improvements would you envision, and why is this particular connection important?

Recently, in my District, we saw the creation of the 26th Avenue North Bikeway which connects Theodore Wirth Park with the Mississippi River. The two major County corridors in my District that need pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvement are Penn Avenue and Olson Memorial Highway—these also happen to be where I walk and bike the most!

 

b) Do you support extending the Great Northern Greenway over the Mississippi River? If so, what will you do to support this extension and what role do you think the County should play?

I do support extending the Greenway over the Mississippi! I would support the Hennepin County partnering with neighboring Ramsey County and the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul to make this happen.

 

 

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