Peter McLaughlin

 

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.

Yes, I often walk and bike to my neighborhood commercial nodes (28th and 34th Ave) for errands and to go to Venn Brewing, Angry Catfish, Town Hall Lanes, Al Vento and Oxendale, nearby lakes (Hiawatha and Nokomis), the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Creek, libraries (Roosevelt and Nokomis) and parks (Minnehaha). I used to ride with my daughter to her school. Now she rides by herself. My commute is dependent on where I need to go and when. Light Rail Transit (LRT) is my preferred mode. I’m able to use it more often during NiceRide season because of the two stations at the Government Center allow me to ride to meetings in and around downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. (I was proud to support installation of these stations as a Board member.) Opening of the A-Line arterial bus rapid transit has given me new options for getting to my gym and other sites in Highland Park and the Capitol. I’m looking forward to additional transit-oriented development along the Hiawatha and A Lines that will expand my options for walking and biking destinations.

 

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?

I was car-free during undergraduate school, where I learned the joys of high frequency transit in the New York-Washington Corridor. I used transit at that time to get to and from Princeton and Trenton, NJ for various part-time jobs and internships. After graduating I shared a series of pretty cheap and unreliable cars with my girlfriend and then wife. There was a lot of bike and transit use during that period. I ride the bus and the LRT regularly. I’m always observing the ride and the riders, and often engage in conversations to learn from riders about their experiences with transit service. It’s critically important to me as a policymaker and fellow rider to understand what it’s like to travel in their shoes. I am also a frequent recipient of comments as a rider and via calls and emails about the condition of stations, concerns about safety, snow shoveling around stops, fares and other important issues. I always pass on those concerns to Metro Transit and weigh in when possible. Finally, two historic notes: my wife and I rode the subway in New York to and from our wedding; and my wife and I went to Hennepin County Medical Center when she entered labor and returned home together with our daughter Casey on the then-Hiawatha, now Blue Line.

 

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

It’s fair to say that there has been and continues to be a lot. A list of the high points:
• Co-led the approval and secured funding to create the Midtown Greenway, the #1 Urban Bikeway in America, and the Midtown Community Works Partnership, which catalyzed scores of developments and public realm improvements in and around the Greenway;
• Authored $2m County Transportation Safety Fund in 2017 for fixing the most dangerous segments of the County transportation system;
• Close engagement with the community in designing and implementing the new, award- winning Franklin Avenue Bridge;
• Engaged neighborhood and advocates in designing and gaining approval of protected bikeway on Washington Avenue and secured three other votes to reach a majority on the County Board;
• Worked closely with advocates and county staff to enact Hennepin County’s Complete Streets policy, the first countywide policy in Minnesota;
• Worked closely with advocates to secure changes to state legislation (after some tough meetings at the Association of MN Counties) to facilitate its implementation;
• Lead the re-write of the County’s Transportation element in our Comp Plan (I delayed approval for months until it was rewritten to reflect our current values and commitments);
• Spearheaded creation of county’s Bicycle Gap Program (after a ride where I ran out of bike trails or lanes in North Minneapolis) which has invested millions of dollars, leveraged additional local funds, and enhanced the functionality of existing bicycle infrastructure throughout Minneapolis and suburban communities;

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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 played a leadership role on the Board in adopting our Complete Streets policy, worked to include it in our Comp Plan amendment, and continue to work for its full implementation. We are using many of the tools identified in Question 3 to achieve this end.

 

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?

Safety must be our top priority for all users of County infrastructure: people who walk, ride bicycles, drive and ride transit. In conjunction with a broad coalition of community advocates, Hennepin County created a new Safety Fund in its 2018 budget. I authored the amendments that made this possible. The goal was to prioritize safety improvements in our investments. Staff is currently creating a list of projects to implement. I will continue to work with the community in identifying projects and assuring that funding continues at this level and hopefully increases in the future.

 

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, as I already have on the Franklin Avenue Bridge and Washington Avenue, both examples of designs that reflect our shared values. (I must say I take some perverse pleasure in the fact that the Center for the American Experiment, a right-wing think tank, has made Washington Avenue its poster child for demonizing all the values Our Streets advocates. We must be doing something right.) I’m waiting for the outcome of the current study to work out the next steps and expand protected bikeways on county roads.

 

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 first must point out that there are substantial additional funds not included in the calculations above. The bulk of the money the County spends to support bike improvements comes from the highway budget. That’s a good outcome. As your question notes, we have a line item for bikeway improvements of $600,000. The far more substantial money has come in road and bridge projects such as the Franklin Avenue Bridge, Park, Portland and Washington Avenue road improvements, and outside funds from cities, the state and/or federal government. I will work to make sure the 2040 transportation plan will continue to support the needed funding through all available channels.

 

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?

Beginning with the last question, based on comments my office has received, we must do a better job of winter maintenance with County-owned or County-managed properties. I am waiting for the County and City staff analysis of winter maintenance options and comments from the community to inform my conclusions or recommendations.

 

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?

There is still a lot to do to create a transportation system that fully reflects the new values and sensibilities that have emerged in the past 20 years through hard work and experimentation around the country. Individual steps will take us on that journey, including:
• Significantly increasing the mode share for bikes, pedestrians and transit;
• Continued major growth in housing and jobs near transit lines and extensive last-mile improvements;
• Elimination of the most dangerous conditions on County roads and intersections.
• Closing of dozens of the existing gaps identified in the County’s gap priority list;
• Strong investment in existing plans to make all county intersections compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act;
• Starting construction of three major transitways (Blue and Green Line extensions and Orange Line), completion and start of five or six ABRT Lines including the C Line now under construction, completing plans for the Riverview, Gold and Rush Line transitways;
• Development of a solid plan for a Bottineau Bikeway, an extension of the Midtown Greenway over the Mississippi and completion of the Grand Rounds.

 

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, I support it. Tactically, I think it begins with extending a corridor north parallel to Hiawatha Avenue from Minnehaha Park in conjunction with various development proposals, many of which we assist through either Hennepin County’s Affordable Housing Incentive Fund or Transit Oriented Development Fund. In this way we can begin building this critical link and change the nature of the marketplace and expectations in that area.

The river crossing is very complex and potentially expensive; Canadian-Pacific (CP) Rail is not cooperating with the community-financed examination of the bridge; and existing customers using the bridge don’t seem interested in leaving. The community-financed re-examination of the bridge is a great first step.

Real engagement of St. Paul and/or Ramsey County will be essential, in large part because of the need for land in St. Paul from CP Rail. Our approach will need to evolve over time depending on the findings in the study, availability of funds and attitude of the railroad and shippers. Hennepin County’s precise role will depend on how these issues evolve.

 

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?

There is a strong agreement among the City, County and MNDOT on a Phase 3 set of improvements in that study. They would provide a long-term solution to an intersection that was designed by MNDOT and the City when the City owned Lake Street and the currently sensibilities about balancing the interests of all people of all ages and abilities who walk, ride bikes, ride transit and/or drive. I support the proposed design and have asked the staffs of the partner agencies to begin developing a joint community engagement plan and a financing strategy to get us to project that can be built.

 

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