The INTERNal Outsider: Collaboration Between (seemingly) Opposing Mindsets

An Intern’s-Eye View of the MIC

When you listen to the news long enough, you’ll find a recurring theme at the base of many major news stories: the environment versus the economy. You can find these opposing ideas in stories impacting regions as large as the nation, all the way down to our own city streets (google “TransCanada pipeline”, or “4th Street long-eared bats in Duluth”).

HTAC Mtg1The MIC, however, does put these two opposing views together in a room at least four times a year at the Harbor Technical Advisory Committee (HTAC) meetings. As one of the MIC’s three advisory committees, the stakeholders of the harbor are brought together for presentations and discussions with other stakeholders of the harbor. The 31 voting members of the HTAC include business owners, environmental groups, and local and state federal officials. Non-voting stakeholders are also invited to meeting to participate.

During my internship I attended two HTAC meetings and have also been helping out with tasks from the Port Land Use Plan. Topics at the HTAC meetings encompass both the environment and the economy and demonstrate how they are not mutually exclusive.  At these meetings we heard about what the regulatory agencies in the area are doing to take the harbor off of the national Area of Concern list, followed by a summary of how the economic development of the port supports the region and connects our economy to the rest of the world. A report on research done on the economic impact of ports throughout the Great Lakes is followed by a description of the habitat restoration being done in Radio Tower Bay and a discussion on the impacts of ballast water.

Beyond these quarterly meetings, the MIC staff facilitates subcommittee meetings that get into even more depth of how the decisions of each side impacts the other.  The Open DuluthHarborAerialViewWater Mitigation subcommittee, for example, creates a working group for the regulatory agencies and the investors of the port to discuss their individual goals of restoration within the St. Louis River estuary and development within the harbor.  The objective of this group is for the Minnesota DNR and PCA, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, to help other entities such as the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, port businesses, and engineering and planning firms, understand how to get through the environmental permitting process for new construction.  Although much of the discussion went over my head, the desire to understand each other and wanting to be better understood was palpable.

The atmosphere at both of the HTAC meetings, along with both Open Water Mitigation subcommittee meetings, amazed me. The classic ever-battling mindsets are getting together on a regular basis to understand one another and to create a better setting for growth on each side.

One function I’ve come to appreciate about the MIC is that, as a neutral transportation planning organization, it is uniquely situated to support this type of coordination and collaboration.  Because the MIC is tasked by federal highway legislation with a primary responsibility of creating opportunities for public participation for all modes of transportation, the MIC includes funding and staffing resources for this harbor group in its annual work program. It serves as a much-needed, often-lacking champion or sponsor to gather diverse and unrelated stakeholders together as one group.

This type of collaboration is almost unheard of throughout the rest of the United States. In fact, the other ports of the Great Lakes are looking to the HTAC as a model to create this same type of collaboration between these two opposing mindsets.

From what I’ve seen so far, other port communities could benefit from an HTAC-type of group if their goals include improved outreach, education, state and local level participation and grassroots support for maritime industry.

 

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. The INTERNal Outsider is her account of some of her work and observations while working as an intern for the MIC.

 

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.

2019ProjectApps-ImageStrip550px

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

Mode Horizontal Image Strip-530px

 

 

 

 

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.