Posts Tagged ‘Planning’

Oh, that “TIP” thing again.

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Yup.  Summer is finally once again upon us, and in the world of transportation planning that means two things: heeere comes construction season… and that “TIP” thing where we line up projects for the next four construction seasons.

TIP stands for Transportation Improvement Program.  It’s an annually-updated document that allows Duluth Area communities to apply federal transportation funds to specific transportation projects.

For those of you who are policy-people or transportation wonks, the TIP document describes all the policies and processes involved.

But for those of you who are just interested in what local and regional projects are being planned for 2013 through 2016 (the big ones that use federal funds), they’re summarized by year in the project tables starting on page 8 of the draft TIP document.

But here’s just a few that might interest you:

  • City of Duluth – Connecting the Munger Trail to the Lakewalk (a.k.a. the Cross City Trail)
  • St. Louis County – Reconstruction of Haines Road (from W 8th St to Morris Thomas Rd)
  • Hermantown – Reconstruction of Stebner Road (from Maple Grove Rd to Hwy 53)

And if anything prompts you to ask questions, or causes a desire to comment, please do!

Tuesday, May 29th will be the start of an official public comment period that will last until Wednesday, June 27th.  The Duluth-Superior MIC encourages anyone interested in providing their input on the TIP or its projects to comment here or to contact us.

The MIC also plans to hold two “TIP Open House” hours from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 28th and Friday, June 29th.  This is a great opportunity to come visit us, look over some maps, and talk to staff in person about transportation projects in the area.

The Harbor Technical Advisory Committee as a Model for Successful Stakeholder Planning and Coordination

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Aerial view of the Ports of Duluth-Superior “A committee that actually gets work done”

 

The HTAC is a working group for addressing challenges and opportunities in the Duluth-Superior harbor, while promoting the port’s economic and environmental importance to both communities.

It is one of three advisory committees to the Metropolitan Interstate Council (MIC), the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Duluth-Superior urbanized area.

And it is unique–the only stakeholder group of its kind in the country.

More important, it is, in the words of former Duluth Seaway Port Authority Director Adolf Ojard, “a committee that actually gets work done.”

Complexity, Controversy and Collaboration

Port-centered issues are usually complex, often controversial and sometimes downright contentious: dredged material management; marine safety; port security; land and recreational uses; economic development proposals; accelerated corrosion of maritime infrastructure; ballast water and invasive species management; legacy environmental degradation and habitat restoration initiatives –to name a few.

None of these problems affects one group alone, and none can be addressed except through the coordinated action of many diverse organizations and individuals. The HTAC has emerged as a national model for doing just that, through planning, collaboration, information sharing and long-term institutional involvement.

Its diverse members all hold a stake in the continued success and health of the harbor. Participation on the HTAC encourages representatives from industry, government, academic, environmental, regulatory and citizen groups on both sides of the bridge to recognize that although they have distinct missions they also have shared goals.

HTAC members, in other words, are genuine stakeholders who have, over its 20-year history, learned the value of playing nice and working hard together.

Result: a new paradigm for dredge material handling

Aerial view of Erie Pier re-engineered as a PRFOne recent example of the HTAC’s successful, collaborative planning process is what’s happening at Erie Pier. It might seem a little hard to get excited about this “hidden in plain sight” facility on the Duluth waterfront—but it represents an entirely new paradigm for dredge material handling.

Thanks to the efforts of many HTAC members who undertook an intensive multi-year planning process, and to the US Army Corps of Engineers which subsequently agreed to make a significant investment in redesigning and re-engineering the facility, a major physical restructuring of the full-to-capacity Contained Disposal Facility at Erie Pier was undertaken to convert it to a Recycle-Reuse Facility.  It utilizes hydraulic sorting to separate out the clean, uncontaminated sand and silt that’s dredged from the shipping channels for reuse in large-scale projects such as road construction and landfill cover.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority now manages Erie Pier dredge materials as a valuable, re-usable resource instead of a waste product.  By creating a cost effective and environmentally sound alternative to standard dredge material disposal practices, it will save local taxpayers the millions of dollars it would have cost to develop a new CDF.

Sincerest form of flattery

It also has the potential to change the way other Great Lakes ports manage their dredging operations.  Erie Pier has recently gained the attention of the Canadian federal government, which is looking at the Erie Pier facility as a model for a new hydraulic sorting procedure at one or more of their dredging sites.

Most port communities face similar challenges.  For this reason, we’ve been invited to present the HTAC model at many national-level planning and port conferences in recent years.

More Information/Get Involved

You can follow or participate in this notable initiative that’s happening right here in Duluth-Superior.  For more information or to get on our meeting mailing list, check out the HTAC page on the MIC website at dsmic.org/htac.

Writing credit: Andy McDonald contributed to this article.

Photo credits:
Duluth-Superior Harbor aerial view – Gary Lidholm, USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest

Erie Pier aerial view – Google Earth 2010

What Have We Done for You Lately?

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

We at the MIC are transportation planners. We lay the groundwork for projects that use federal tax dollars.

Large, public, tax-funded infrastructure requires a huge investment of federal, state and local funds—but then, our region’s mobility, quality of life, economic growth and competitiveness rely on the transportation network. Every household and business depends on safe, multi-modal transportation infrastructure for moving people and goods.

Local input,  coordination, and planning expertise

Our job is to coordinate with all local jurisdictions so the money for this infrastructure is well-spent and reflects local priorities.

We at the MIC are also elected officials. Our Board members represent all local units of government in the Duluth-Superior area—states, counties, cities and townships. Because these neighboring jurisdictions all have responsibilities and make decisions that impact the transportation system, coordination is key to making efficient use of limited financial resources.

And the term “stakeholder” is the real deal for us – figuring out and working with those who have a vested interest in the decisions that get made. Our job is to work with the right people – planners, engineers, local officials – to set joint priorities for funding projects, agree on timelines, and to share information about the projects we’re up to.

Bottom-up planning process

This kind of cooperative process is what Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) like the MIC are designed to do, here and across the country. We facilitate a bottom-up approach to transportation planning, allowing for local input into decisions how federal funds are spent, instead of a top-down approach that would make decisions about local projects and priorities at the federal or state level.

Planning Successes

Most important, this planning process is getting real results in our area. Here are some of our planning successes:

HTAC: a national model

Our Harbor Technical Advisory Committee, or HTAC, is recognized as a national model for doing just that—getting the right people in the room to solve problems. The HTAC is a nationally-recognized, bi-state forum to discuss issues confronting the Ports of Duluth and Superior. The HTAC brings together a broad range of industry, environmental and government stakeholders to provide sound planning and management recommendations and to promote the harbor’s economic and environmental importance to our community.

Erie Pier Management Plan: first of its kind on the Great Lakes

HTAC stakeholders have worked for many years to craft the Erie Pier Management Plan, a blueprint for transitioning the Erie Pier Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) to a first-of-its kind Processing and Reuse Facility (PRF). By creating a cost effective and environmentally sound alternative to current dredge material disposal practices for Great Lakes ports, this innovative Plan will save local taxpayers the millions of dollars it would have cost to develop a new CDF.

Landside Port Access Study: targeted roadway construction

The Landside Port Access Study was used to educate the public and policy makers about the land-based access needs of the Port and laid the foundation for funding a new roadway project (Helberg Drive) to improve access and safety.

Corridor planning: addressing problems before they arise

The MIC’s Corridor Planning initiatives seek to be proactive, by identifying and addressing problems along local roadways before they arise. They balance mobility needs with adjoining land uses and environmental and community interests.

Our North 28th Street Plan identified and made recommendations to alleviate critical transportation issues on North 28th Street, in Superior, in advance of planned road reconstruction. Significant safety concerns needed to be addressed due to several conflicting land uses, including the construction of three new schools, a skate park, a recreational trail, housing units and a newly-developed commercial area.

The Duluth Heights Traffic Circulation Study was undertaken at the request of neighbors and local elected officials to address the issue of residential streets being used as an unwelcome and unintended thoroughfare to a commercial district. Using an extensive public participation process, MIC staff worked closely with residents to document the level of cut-through traffic, and identify options to reduce impacts and improve flow in and around the neighborhood.

This planning process set the groundwork for the City to pursue funding for a new roadway connection (Joshua Avenue) between the Miller Hill commercial district and the east side of Duluth.

Long Range Planning: coordinated goals and strategies

The MIC’s Long Range Planning initiatives provide policy guidance, goals and coordinated strategies for jurisdictions within the greater metropolitan area of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI.

Directions 2035 is our Long Range Transportation Plan, setting forth a vision for the area-wide transportation network for the next 25 years. The LRTP provides a framework for working cooperatively to provide a well-maintained, integrated, accessible and multi-modal transportation system to safely and efficiently move people and freight, within the constraints of funding the region can reasonably expect to receive.

The Duluth Urban Area Growth Impact Study examines how best to accommodate growth in areas outside the urban services boundary while ensuring taxpayer protection from the consequences of inefficient patterns of development. Future land use information from each jurisdiction was used as part of a regional planning process to examine growth impacts and to identify the specific areas best suited for development.

Bike, Pedestrian and Transit Planning: mobility and quality of life

The MIC’s planning initiatives for modes of travel that are not centered on cars and trucks account annually for about 20% of our work program and budget. They are important because they aim to improve access, mobility and quality of life for all people in our area, regardless of age or physical ability, whether they travel by car, bike, bus or on foot.

The MIC’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) engages local stakeholders to provide sound planning recommendations and to provide public outreach and education about bike- and pedestrian-related plans and projects.

The Duluth-Superior Area Bike Map is our most popular product, an award-winning guide to the best on- and off-street bike routes in and through this region.

The Duluth Sidewalk Study provides technical and policy guidance to assist local elected officials in working with neighborhoods during roadway reconstruction projects. The GIS-based interactive map is a powerful tool for decision makers to apply data to the sometimes-contentious discussions about locating sidewalks on local streets.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Plans: The MIC was an early proponent of SRTS planning, working closely with many community stakeholders collecting data, conducting field observations and identifying safety issues around schools. The MIC’s recommendations have been incorporated into many funded projects to improve bike and pedestrian access to schools in the cities of Duluth, Superior and Proctor.

Transit Planning: The MIC provides ongoing input and technical assistance on local transit initiatives including planning and securing funding for a future downtown multimodal facility. Results from a recent ridership survey will be utilized by MnDOT to determine the potential for utilizing transit service to mitigate the effects of major construction projects statewide.

This is where you come in

Hopefully this gives you an idea of how we have worked (for nearly forty years!) to ensure that federally-funded infrastructure investments are developed with input from the people who know this area best.  As a local resident, do our planning initiatives reflect your priorities?

How to Get From Here to There: Access, Connectivity and Land Use in Lincoln Park

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Transformative changes are taking place in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

View from the new Western Middle School

Looking down from the new Western Middle School site to the new Clyde Iron recreational facility (lower left)

A major redevelopment of the old Clyde Iron industrial complex was just completed. A new Western middle school is rising on the hillside. A segment of the Cross-City trail will be winding through this neighborhood in the next few years as it spans the city from east to west along the waterfront.

Here at the MIC, we see these exciting new community-oriented developments and start to think about…access, connectivity and land use.

We’re kind of geeky that way.  Let me explain.

Access is about making sure that people, who have different mobility options and who need or want to use these facilities, can get to them easily and safely.

Connectivity is about making sure that usable and intuitive transportation links exist between the new developments and other destinations.  At the base of this this neighborhood, popular destinations would include Wade Stadium, Wheeler Field and Harrison Park.  And along the top of the ridgeline are Skyline Parkway and the Superior Hiking Trail.

Complicating the situation, the land uses for these facilities are distinctly at odds with each other.

The middle school is located on the edge of a traditional residential neighborhood that is easy to walk through, with square blocks, houses close together and minimal, slow moving traffic. It can actually be characterized as a semi-rural area, with few sidewalks and narrow streets, many of which dead end into large open spaces.

The Clyde Iron complex, in contrast, which also houses a Boys and Girls Club, indoor athletic fields, year-round ice rink, and in the future a nearby Duluth Children’s Museum—is located in an established industrial area, where a significant level of pedestrian traffic was not anticipated.

Last but not least is the huge barrier of the railroad tracks that run between the school and the Wheeler Field park space and the Denfeld neighborhood immediately west of the school.

So, a number of our current studies are taking a look at how people move around this neighborhood in light of the new developments.  Creating a walking corridor between these facilities is a key transportation piece for this neighborhood.

The Lincoln Park Pedestrian Corridor Plan is focused on creating a walking route up and down the hill from the middle school to the Clyde Iron complex.

An upcoming Safe Routes to School site assessment will further examine the school and walking and bicycling routes to the middle school to the surrounding neighborhoods.

And a larger neighborhood wide transportation study, the Lincoln Park Multimodal Transportation Assessment will build off of the other 2 studies and focus on all modes of travel in the neighborhood.

Lots of work is ahead.  We’ll keep you posted.

Photo credit: Scott Byykkonen

Co-writing credit: Rondi Watson

My Awesome Walk to Work

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Snow-covered section of the Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth MN

My Facebook post today reads: “Another awesome walk to work this morning on the Superior Hiking Trail—despite the snow—or maybe because of it!”

Within seconds a friend (an actual friend, in this case) responded “I did the same. I love Chester Park.”

Another commented “You are the luckiest commuter ever!”

This exchange reminded me of the simple, real-life benefits of one of our favorite concepts here at the MIC: multi-modal transportation networks.

It’s all about options

From a transportation planning perspective, a multi-modal transportation network refers to a balance of  infrastructure that supports multiple modes of travel — a mix of roads, air, marine/port, rail, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian facilities (including paved and non-paved trails).  This mix is plainly visible on any given day in the Duluth-Superior area.

From a societal and governmental perspective, multi-modal transportation networks have been widely supported because a balanced transportation system encourages economic growth, reduces congestion and environmental impacts, and improves mobility and access to transportation.

From my personal perspective, though, a multi-modal transportation network means that I have options. It was just too nice of a morning to get in my car and drive (the very walkable distance of) two and a half miles.

Trails as commuter pathways

One big advantage of living in Duluth, Minnesota, is the proximity of urban areas to green spaces. A multi-modal system, in this city, means that I can walk out my back door onto the Superior Hiking Trail, which in turn intersects with our urban streets infrastructure across Skyline Parkway (as scenic a walk as you could ask for), down through a couple of local neighborhoods and to our downtown office.

And a community-wide vision is emerging for Duluth to become the premier trail city in North America. Developing an inter-connected trails system will provide not just outstanding recreational opportunities but compelling transportation options as well.

Quality of life improvement

Bottom line, I don’t have to get in my car and drive every time I need to go somewhere. I’m able to travel on foot (or by bike or by bus), and I consider that a big quality of life enhancement.

How about you?

Do you have an awesome walk to work of your own?  Would you like to be able to walk or bike more often in your daily life?  Does it make sense to continue to fund multi-modal transportation networks? (More on that topic to follow…)