The INTERNal Outsider

An Intern’s-Eye View of the MIC

 

Meet Erica Hansen

In my time as a student in the Transportation and Logistics Management program at UW-Superior, I have become increasingly enamored with the dynamics of transportation.Rail mounted gantry crane in the Port Everglades seaport

You might even describe me as a freight transportation enthusiast (rubber tyre gantry cranes get me fired up, okay?). The more I learn about this behind-the-scenes industry, the more apparent its presence becomes.

A few months ago when I began my journey to becoming a MIC intern, I found that there is even a behind-the-scenes transportation planning world to my behind-the-scenes freight transportation world.

I have learned that at the MIC office, “comfort level” speaks not to the ergonomics of my work space (still getting used to the stand-up desk), but to how people feel walking and biking down a road.  They give you a booklet on the first day of the acronyms you’ll hear on a daily basis: “TAC” isn’t something you put into a wall to hold a paper up, it’s a group of intelligent, invested engineers and planners who look at what the Duluth-Superior area needs from a technical perspective. “TIP” isn’t the “pointed or rounded end or extremity of something slender or tapering” (thanks, dictionary.com), but the four-year Transportation Improvement Program, a tool and a process by which federal funds are made available to finance local infrastructure projects.

Here at the MIC, “intern” isn’t the person who makes the coffee and copies. In my first two weeks at the MIC, I spent several hours outside counting parked bikes, taking pictures of infrastructure use, and collecting data on bicyclists and pedestrians. I’ve attended meetings with stakeholders of the Twin Ports, and have come to an understanding of how many different views affect the decisions made here. I’ve been included in many discussions of the efforts towards making Duluth-Superior a community that supports each other, from environmentalists supporting the economy, or motorists supporting bike lanes.

Although I am an outsider to the world of urban planning, in just a short while I have become more invested in the community I’ve been a part of for over 25 years, and more understanding of the efforts to integrate the needs of all transportation users — from the pedestrian on the sidewalk to the overweight/oversized semi-trucks on the roads.

In my remaining months at the MIC, I look forward to enhancing this understanding by assisting the amiable and welcoming staff of the MIC on their various projects, whether it’s field work, office work, or lending my outsider’s view to their planning mindset.

 

Erica H-150pxErica Hansen is finishing up her final semester at the University of Wisconsin – Superior in the Transportation and Logistics Management program. She is intrigued by looking at transportation from a different side than freight movement, and helping to create an efficient and safe transportation network for the Duluth-Superior area. Erica also interns at Lake Superior Warehousing, Co. Inc. and runs student organizations at UWS. When she is not busy with these things, she takes her two-year-old to parks near their home, and rollerblades on the Munger Trail.

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Last Call for Comments on 2019 Transportation Projects

Almost $10 million of federal funding is being programmed for Duluth area transportation projects in 2019, and you have the opportunity to review and comment.

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The programmed projects include:

  • Bridge preservation on the Blatnik bridge and the Mesaba Avenue bridge over Superior Street in downtown Duluth;
  • Mill and overlay of Highway 39 in Gary/New Duluth;
  • Resurfacing of Maple Grove Road (from Midway Road to Westberg Road) in Hermantown;
  • Pavement reclamation and storm sewer repairs on E 8th St/E 9th St in Duluth’s East hillside; and
  • Duluth Transit Authority operations (approx. $2 million in FTA funding programmed for continued public transit operations.

Additional project details are described in a post from March 5th, when they were first proposed.  As noted in that post, because federal funding is public money, the public has the right for their comments to be recorded and reported on these projects. 

The MIC will be taking official public comment on all projects included in the 2016-2019 Duluth Area TIP – from July 12 to August 13th

You may leave your comments in the section at the end of this blog post, and you are welcome to stop by the ARDC offices and speak with MIC staff directly during a couple of “Open House” days from 9am to 5pm on Thursday, August 12th and Friday, August 13th.

Look the projects over – do you have anything to say about them?<br></br>

How federal transportation dollars will be spent in Duluth…4 years from now

Although it fluctuates from year to year, about $8 million – on average– of federal transportation assistance comes in to the Duluth area.  Of that amount, approximately $6 million is allocated for MnDOT projects, and $2 million goes to county and city projects.

Each year several new transportation improvement projects are proposed by these jurisdictions, for four years in advance.  This allows the time needed to do the planning and engineering work before they can be implemented.

This year, five projects are being proposed to utilize the $8 million in federal funding estimated to be available in year 2019.  These projects and their estimated costs are listed below.

Because federal funding is public money, the public has the right for their comments to be recorded and reported on these projects.  Look the projects over – do you have anything to say about them?    

E9th225pxE 8th Street/E 9th Street – Pavement Preservation
A mill and overlay of the existing pavement on the 1.6 miles of E 8th Street/E 9th Street between 6th Avenue E and Woodland Avenue.  Repairs to storm water, curb and gutter, and sidewalk will also be part of this project.
Jurisdiction: City of Duluth
Project Cost:  $1,300,000 ($860,000 federal funds; $440,000 local funds)

MapleGrove225pxMaple Grove Road – Pavement Preservation
A mill and overlay of 3.5 miles of Maple Grove Road from Midway Road to Westberg Road.  The project will include intersection improvements at Midway Road and at LaVaque Road.
Jurisdiction: St. Louis County
Project Cost:  $2,000,000 ($1,600,000 federal funds; $400,000 local funds)

McCuen150pxMcCuen Street (State Highway 39) – Pavement Preservation
Resurfacing of 1 mile of highway from State Highway 23 to the Oliver Bridge.
Jurisdiction: MnDOT District 1
Project Cost:  $900,000 ($720,000 federal funds; $180,000 state funds)

 

MesabiBridge150pxMesaba Ave, Bridge # 6544 – Bridge Repainting (Preservation)
Repainting of the understructure of the bridge over Superior Street in Downtown Duluth.
Jurisdiction: MnDOT District 1
Project Cost:  $1,500,000 ($1,200,000 federal funds; $300,000 state funds)  

 

Blatnik150pxBlatnik Bridge – Bridge Repainting (Preservation)
Repainting the superstructure of the I-535 bridge over St. Louis Bay.  This project includes a cost-share with WisDOT.
Jurisdiction: MnDOT District 1
Project Cost:  $8,260,000 ($3,717,000 federal funds; $413,000 MnDOT funds; $4,130,000 WisDOT funds)

 

You may have noticed that what these projects have in common is preservation of existing roads and bridges.  This is a trend that will continue as transportation funding becomes more scarce. In our area (and throughout the state) we will be seeing very little new construction in the coming years.

More information about the Duluth Area TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) and the projects being proposed for 2019 can be found on the MIC’s website at www.dsmic.org.

Meanwhile, if you have any opinions about these proposed projects, we welcome your comments.

Proposed Revisions to the MIC’s Public Involvement Plan

We are interested to know your thoughts about the changes we are proposing to our Public Involvement Plan.

The MIC’s Public Involvement Plan (PIP) spells out our process for obtaining public input as an integral part of the transportation planning process.  Public Mtg participants

Recently we put these procedures to the test, during the development of our Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).  We noted several edits, deletions and additions to be incorporated into the 2013 PIP document as approved revisions.

The proposed revisions are:

 

 1. Delete all references to air quality consultations

 

Why is this being proposed?

As of late 2014, Duluth has received an ‘Attainment’ area for air quality; therefore federal ‘conformity consultation’ requirements no longer apply.  (pages 7, 29, 33, 50)

2. Discontinue the step of placing hard copies of the Draft and Final TIPs and LRTPs at area libraries for review.

 

Why is this being proposed?

Placing hard copies at the libraries was a method of distribution that predated the 2005 SAFETEA-LU mandate to utilize electronic and online channels (e.g., CDs, websites and email) to deliver plans and planning process information.  At that time the MIC switched from producing printed versions to formatting our plans as PDFs designed to be viewed online, as well as developing online-only visualization features such as interactive mapping.  (pages 29, 30, 33, 40, 41)

 3. Add the following language for members of the public who wish to give comments at regularly scheduled meetings of the Policy Board, TAC, HTAC and BPAC:

 

Speaker Rules – for Commenting at MIC Policy Board, TAC, HTAC and BPAC meetings (page 11)

  • Give your name and affiliation (if any)
  • Comment Time Limit: 3 minutes*
  • Limit your remarks to the specific plan, study or document under consideration by the Board
  • Be respectful in dialogue

* The Chair, with committee approval, has the option of extending or closing the public comment period, depending on the number of people who wish to speak and the length of the meeting agenda

 

Why is this being proposed?

The point of the speaker rules is to ensure that all people who show have the opportunity to have their say.  The 3-minute time limit is consistent with Duluth City Council and St. Louis County Commission rules.  Some flexibility in the amount of time for each speaker is allowed.

Let us know what you think

Public comments about the proposed changes may be made from December 14, 2014 through January 30, 2015, by commenting below, or contact Rondi Watson at (218) 529-7511 or by email .

Comments are also welcomed in person at the MIC Policy Board meeting on Wed, February 18, 2015, at 7pm at the Hermantown Dept. of Public Safety Training Center, 5111 Maple Grove Road, Hermantown, MN.  The proposed revisions will be presented for a vote at this time, along with a summary of all comments received during the public comment period.

To view a copy of the 2013 Plan and the proposed changes, please visit www.dsmic.org/pip.

 

What will our Transportation System Look Like in 2040?

Updating the 25-year Vision for Transportation in the Twin Ports

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You are invited to attend one of the four public meetings on Connections 2040 – the Twin Ports Long Range Transportation Plan.

 

The Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council (MIC) is updating its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) to provide policy guidance, goals and strategies for jurisdictions within the greater metropolitan area of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin.  It covers a twenty-five year planning horizon and is updated every four years.Connections2040-logo-320px

The over-arching purpose of the LRTP is to provide a planning foundation for jurisdictions to work cooperatively to provide a well-maintained, integrated, accessible and multi-modal transportation system to safely and efficiently move people and freight for the next 25 years, within the constraints of funding the region can reasonably expect to receive.

The heart of the Plan is a listing of proposed federally-funded transportation projects, as well as transportation initiatives underway within the region, to be implemented from 2015-2040. You can view an interactive map of the projects here.

To learn more about demographic trends for this area, projections, transportation priorities and planned projects, you have three opportunities for input:

1. Attend a Public Meeting

Thurs. Sept 11, 2014
5:00-7:00pm
Community Action Duluth, 2424 W 5th Street, Duluth, MN 55806

Thurs. Sept 18, 2014
4:00-6:00pm
Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI 54880

Thurs. Sept 25, 2014
4:00-6:00pm
Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC)
221 W First Street, Duluth, MN 55802

Mon. Sept 29, 2014
4:00-7:00pm (drop-in)
214 West Superior Street
221 W First Street, Duluth, MN 55802

2.  Visit our Connections 2040 web page at www.dsmic.org/lrtp for more information about the plan and to view the interactive map of proposed projects.  You can use the “layers” tab in the upper right corner to toggle on and off views of information about environmentally sensitive areas, low-income and minority populations, etc.

3.  Contact MIC Senior Planner James Gittemeier by phone at (218) 529-7556 or by email at jgittemeier@ardc.org.