Megan Kuhl-Stennes

 

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 drive to work because I have a 3 year old whom I need to get to or from daycare daily and transit for that would take over two hours one way. I try to bike as often as I can for errands, to the farmers’ market, recreation, church, and occasionally to work in the summer. We frequently use the Midtown Greenway for recreation as our trail in the city. We walk, stroll, bike, and run on the Greenway. I am fortunate to own a car, but as an occasional biker I am more aware of other modes of transportation and pedestrians when I drive.

 

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?

For short periods of time I have been transit-dependent and have lived with people who have been car-free. While I do not understand firsthand the challenges of being car-free over a long period of time, I understand being car-free is quite difficult. I support developing a transit, bike, and pedestrian systems that are reliable and safe. This will greatly improve the lives of current, regular users of these modes of transportation and incentivize others to go car-free. I want to be driven away from driving. For trips to downtown Minneapolis, I rarely drive as transit, biking or walking are easier and more accessible. We need all parts of Minneapolis and more parts of Hennepin County to be like this. I also understand that Metro Mobility is sorely lacking funds and has not had an upgrade to their system in a long time. We also need to make improvements to our broader transit system so that it is seamless for people with disabilities.

 

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

I have advocated for sidewalks and complete streets around my work in an industrial area of Minneapolis. We have an increasing population of bikers and transit users (who must walk several blocks to our facility) and a few delightful restaurants in the area that we want to walk to safely while surrounded by semi-trucks. I continue to track the project and work with the Council member to advocate for extending sidewalks and including boulevards with trees for safe traveling by bike or foot.

 

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.

I think Complete Streets policies are vital to the safety of all on the roads, bikeways, and sidewalks. I whole-heartedly agree with the mission and values of the Complete Streets policy and support the implementation of Complete Streets throughout Hennepin County. However, I disagree with the notion that resources can prevent a Complete Streets project from being implemented. Because something is expensive doesn’t mean we should not do it. Of course we should try to minimize costs as much as possible, but these are critical investments. In terms of prioritization, I would look to the community’s hope first – what is the vision of this potential project? Depending on the location, I would likely prioritize pedestrians first, then bikes, then driving and parking.

 

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?

I think Complete Streets policies and taking a more holistic approach to the system ensures increased safety on streets. Expanding bicycle plans, protected bikeways, and dedicated pedestrian areas are very important. I prefer boulevards between sidewalk and street as a safety and air pollution buffer (assuming they have trees). Additionally, I’m supportive of all people of driving age being able to obtain training and a driver’s license so that drivers operate cars more safely.

 

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 create a safer environment for all. With protected bikeways, more people feel comfortable biking, bike more often, and drive less. As drivers get used to more bikes and pedestrians, our streets collectively become safer. Additionally, I think protected bikeways more often prevents parking (even temporarily) in bike lanes, which is a big safety hazard for all road users.

 

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?

I would support spending more on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in a concerted way to ensure equity and holistic vision to this funding. I would also want to see more data on what projects these dollars have funded, and where additional funding would be best spent.

 

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 would support compensating the city for plowing of bikeways. I would also support exploring public clearing of snow and ice from sidewalks. As we have been very lucky to have alley plowing and maintenance of alleys and roadways, there is an equity factor at hand as we all utilize sidewalks and we must explore that option as we encourage more people to use transit and other options for daily activities and commutes.

 

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?

If elected, I hope to make walking and bicycling better by the end of my term in a holistic and comprehensive way with no net gain of cars on the road and more bikers, walkers, and transit users. We must continue to plan for and finance bike and pedestrian infrastructure. We must also help community members realize the quality of life improvements that come from a more biking and walking centered system. I hope to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians by ensuring their voices are a significant part of the community vision when design changes to roads comes forth.

 

DISTRICT SPECIFIC QUESTIONS:

 

a) Do you support extending the Midtown 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?

YES! This is an extremely exciting project that has great potential for more bikers to utilize a safe path to and from Saint Paul. I’m excited by the possibility of an engineering study on the railroad bridge and support the completion of this study. I think the County should maintain a continued connection with members of the community and the railway, and advocate for the best option. This is an amazing case where the community is speaking loudly and is well organized. I would work to ensure the community’s demands are incorporated in what the County advocates and supports with this project. Collaboration between the Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul and Ramsey and Hennepin Counties is also essential to a successful outcome. Some funding from Hennepin County will be necessary through the process and to completion.

 

b) In 2016, the City and County released a study of potential improvements to the Lake and Hiawatha interchange. A phase 2 of the study is being finished this year. What improvements do you think should be made at this intersection and what role do you think the County should play?

I appreciate the collaboration the County has had with Minneapolis, MnDOT, and the Met Council on this intersection. I’m also glad that some community engagement has been happening with this project.
Surface level changes seem to be a fundamental improvement. Though, while design concepts are not my knowledge base, much more than surface level changes must occur for a drastically better interchange. I think getting artists in there much sooner may also be more valuable. I’m amazed what some artists can creatively imagine into being that has both form and function improvements. Putting artist input and completion on the back burner is disappointing to me.

I know funding for the project is an issue and the County can greatly help finding and generating the funds. Furthermore, the County’s role must be to elevate the community’s wishes for this area by helping foster more community ownership of this project and ensuring full community participation in the engagement and completion processes.

 

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