Jefferson Avenue: A Project in Context
From Hilary Reeves, Communications Manager
My employer, Transit for Livable Communities (TLC), awarded funds to a project along Jefferson Avenue in Saint Paul. The project was proposed by the City of Saint Paul and the funds are from the federal nonmotorized transportation pilot program that TLC administers. The project has been the subject of recent news articles: here and here. Here is some context.
TLC is an organization focused on increasing transportation options for Minnesotans with the goals of improving health and economic opportunity, strengthening community, fostering a sound economy, and preserving our natural resources. Based on its transportation-related expertise, TLC was appointed by Congress to administer the Minneapolis-area pilot location of the nonmotorized transportation pilot program funded in the 2005 federal transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU. TLC created Bike Walk Twin Cities (BWTC) to run the program. BWTC and TLC are accountable to the Federal Highway Administration and Mn/DOT for the use of these funds. Funding for projects has been awarded on a competitive basis.
A big picture approach to transportation options.
The Jefferson Avenue project is one of 37 infrastructure projects in the Twin Cities funded by TLC through Bike Walk Twin Cities. Several of these projects have opened in the last year and many more are opening in the next few weeks, with more to come in 2012. These include bike boulevard projects like the one proposed along Jefferson. Check out this video about the RiverLake Greenway. Here is a schedule of Fall 2011 openings of new projects, including two more bicycle boulevards. In Saint Paul, two projects have already opened: The Marshall Avenue connection, from Cretin Ave. to the River, and new bike and pedestrian facilities along Como Avenue, creating a connection from the U of M campus to the Capitol. These new routes are filling in a network of routes to make it easier for people to choose getting around on bicycle or on foot, including in combination with transit.
New bike lane uphill from Mississippi River on Marshall Avenue, Saint Paul
Goals of the nonmotorized pilot program
Congress recognized the value of bicycling and walking to improve health, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality. The goals of the pilot program are ambitious – to increase bicycling and walking as a means of transportation and to document health and other benefits – all in about five years. Only four communities have been given this extraordinary opportunity. In this pilot location, when all projects are complete, the funds will have brought more than 75 miles of new bikeways and sidewalks, provided the majority of startup funding for Nice Ride Minnesota bike-sharing (in a public-private partnership) and the Sibley Bike Depot Community Partners Bike Library. The funds have brought a new Bike Center to the University of Minnesota, including the biggest installation in the nation thus far of an RFID system to track bicycle commuters to provide wellness and other benefits. The pilot program is also funding one of the nation’s most robust efforts to actually count the number of people bicycling or walking—as one means of finding out how these investments pay off. Data from 2007-2010 show a 33% increase in bicycling and a 17% increase in walking.
Jefferson and Griggs.
TLC did not propose these projects. The City of Saint Paul proposed both the Jefferson and Griggs projects. The original deadline for completing them was 2010. By the summer of 2011, with the City’s inability to move their Jefferson project forward and with no work completed on Griggs, TLC indicated that if the City could not follow through on the projects they would need to be cancelled so the funds could be reprogrammed elsewhere in the pilot area. Community leaders interested in the Griggs project argued that its fate should not be linked to progress on the Jefferson project. In August, in response to assurances from the City that the Griggs project would be accelerated, the TLC board reaffirmed that Griggs and Jefferson would proceed independently.
The Jefferson and Cleveland diverter.
The proposal from the City of Saint Paul, funded in 2009, called for making Jefferson Avenue a bikeway from River to River. Several improvements in the section of Jefferson east of Lexington have already been added –there are now bike lanes and the speed limit has been reduced to 30 mph. A sidewalk will be added with pilot funding. The City proposed to make the segment west of Snelling a bicycle boulevard. A bicycle boulevard is a residential street to which certain features are added to make bicycling and walking safer, while also discouraging non-local automobile traffic. The City’s proposal for this section of Jefferson included a combination of traffic circles, stop-sign removal, curb bumpouts, and medians. The City conducted public meetings about their proposed plans for Jefferson Avenue. During this process, most of the bicycle boulevard elements were rejected, leaving just the median, or diverter, at Cleveland. However, as indicated at the public meeting on September 27, 2011, the City of Saint Paul has now reopened the process and will re-consider all the options they originally proposed for this segment of Jefferson Avenue.
New features on the streets.
Both Saint Paul and Minneapolis have worked to become cities where bicycling and walking are real options for getting around. The nonmotorized pilot program has helped make that ambition more of a reality. Minneapolis and surrounding communities are seeing new features on the streets, such as bicycle lanes, bike boxes to improve safety for cyclists at complex intersections, bicycle-detection stop lights, curb bump outs, and medians. Some of these features have been around for a while, some are totally new to our region. These are features that have been shown to work well in other communities to make bicycling and walking safer and more convenient. In addition to infrastructure, Bike Walk Twin Cities has funded efforts to help people learn about and use these new features, incorporate the expanded network of bicycle routes into their travel choices, and have access to bicycles.
What about you?
Have you seen any of the new projects funded through this pilot program? If you’re interested in checking them out, please join us—there are several openings in the next week.
Construction workers add Bike Boulevard markings to Bryant Avenue South. Credit: Leslie Foreman
Bike Boxes at intersection of Franklin Avenue & East River Parkway
Curb improvements on RiverLake Greenway
Traffic circle under construction on 5th St NE bicycle boulevard
Nice Ride Minnesota expands to Saint Paul, summer 2011