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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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.

 

Public Involvement in Transportation Planning

For many of us, transportation projects seem to come from nowhere.  Others may vaguely remember a project “promised” years ago.  Too often, people OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdevelop negative impressions of the process by which transportation projects come into being because of the lack of information about how these decisions are made.

That’s where public involvement comes in.

Right now we are updating our Public Involvement Plan – the steps we take and the tools we use to facilitate two-way communication while our plans and studies are underway.  Public involvement gives community members an opportunity to provide input and lets our planning staff provide information, answer questions and understand their perspective.

Our work at the MIC is to study, analyze and make recommendations to make it easier for people and businesses to get where they need to go—whether by car, bike, bus, on foot, by air or on water.  We think about how well these transportation systems will function, and how they can be paid for, not just today but for the next 5, 10, even 25 years.

Public involvement ensures that these decisions are made with input from the people who know this area first-hand.

With this in mind, take a look at the draft of the MIC’s updated Public Involvement Plan.  We understand that there’s more to public participation than holding meetings.  We need to become more visible and find multiple ways to get people and organizations involved.

So let us know: will these steps help to encourage participation in the MIC’s planning activities, as well as to broaden the range of voices and views expressed?

 

The Best Laid Plans

Last Tuesday night we presented information and took questions at a public meeting about our Central Entrance Transportation Plan.  It was raining hard when the meeting wrapped up around 7 pm.

And it kept raining hard all night long.

By Wednesday morning, the City of Duluth had declared a state of emergency, due to the torrential downpour that caused widespread flooding and heavy damage to infrastructure.  The cities of Superior, Hermantown and Proctor, all within the MIC’s planning area, followed suit shortly thereafter.

We received some good comments and questions at the Central Entrance meeting, which we had planned to address in this week’s blog.

But the transportation issues and priorities for this community have dramatically changed – literally overnight.

All of the area’s jurisdictions are currently in assessment mode and the extent of the damage is still being tallied.  While the concerns expressed at the meeting, about traffic calming, walkability and access management, are all still valid—right now public safety and damage control initiatives take precedence.

The MIC has conducted numerous planning efforts up to this point, which may or may not be relevant to the damaged infrastructure.

We will be revisiting the recommendations from many of our past plans and studies to prepare for the coordinated work of rebuilding our transportation system for the enhancement of our communities.


Photos: Robert Herling and James Gittemeier

Editorial assistance: Robert Herling

Why do YOU bike to work?

We interviewed a few folks in and around our office about their reasons for biking to work.  Their message: biking is a healthy, economical and fun transportation alternative.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxiNQu5qK_0

We hope you’ll be inspired or encouraged to join us for Bike to Work Day on
Friday, May 18.

You’re invited to stop by one of our bike commuter stations from 6:30 am
to 8:30 am and reward your commute with:

  • Free coffee and refreshments
  • Bike mechanics to look at brakes, tire pressure and other safety checks
  • Copies of the Duluth-Superior Bike Map

The bike stations will be located at:

  • Duluth: Lake Ave &Superior Street (Minnesota Power Plaza)
  • Superior: Tower Ave & Belknap Street (City Center Park)
  • Stop by and tell us why YOU biked to work!

    Click to see our Bike to Work event page on Facebook

    Video footage and editing by Robert Herling, Jodi Jabas and James Gittemeier