Complete green streets

“Complete Streets” have been identified as a Council goal, although as yet our streets, and especially our street planning and design, are a long way from being complete.  “Complete” means streets should be designed to serve not only cars, but bicycles and pedestrians, too.  This means “streets” includes sidewalks, bike lanes, and more thoughtfully designed intersections.

Even though Northfield is still at the beginning of its work on completing streets, we are fortunate to have local role models to guide our development.  Check out the Strib’s story about metro area cities which are narrowing streets  to permit adequate space for bicycles as well as traffic calming (not to mention trees – see the Plum Street discussion)

The state legislature passed a Complete Streets law last year requiring MNDoT to adopt a complete streets policy and encouraging local adoption so we’re getting direction from above.

Some people think planning for bicycles and pedestrians is a frilly sort of amenity – nice, but not if it costs more or is inconvenient.   The great thing is, it costs less.  Smart growth, as I have been saying all along, is not just about how things look, but about how a town functions and how we pay for it.

In the Star Tribune story, North St Paul (see their “Living Streets” manual, too) estimates narrowing a 30 foot wide residential street to 22 feet (yes, 22 feet!) saves 15% in paving and will cut maintenance by 25% or about $1,000 per mile per year.   Since Northfield’s community survey identified street condition as a problem and the Council has a goal to reduce the number of miles of streets in poor condition, narrowing streets would help us pay for improving our overall transportation network.

2 Replies to “Complete green streets”

  1. This is an obvious improvement that should be incorporated into NF’s trans/ plan if it has not yet been done.

    But in the current Plum /Linden street reconstruction, one street was narrowed and one was widened, I think.
    If that is so, why did the Council accept the Engineer’s argument of that necessity to widen one street?

    It seems like all too often the choice to begin doing something, or changing the relevant policy, is in the future… the next time a like project comes up. Then when the next project comes along the same argument of time, design, and dollars to change, is presented; if a councilor says well, we want some changes, it makes them appear to possibly not be as fiscally responsible as they should be.

    I recall that C. Ganey was going to join C. Zweifel in voting against the Plum/Linden reconstruction for the same reasons as C. Zweifel expressed, but decided to vote yes after the Engineer said that they would be greatly inconvenienced in both the design/ timeline and costs if the project could not move forward as presented.

    But since the project needed a super majority(5), it would have still had that plurality, however, the engineer’s expression of expediency overruled the policy decision.

    So once again, the importance of the Council’s role of setting policy, and then directing the Staff to implement that policy, becomes the primary function the Council should be pursuing.

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