Priorities for Duluth’s Transportation System
As discussed in our previous blog, approximately $45 million in federal funds are being programmed for Duluth area transportation projects for 2012-2015.
The draft Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) spells out costs and timeframes for a total of 36 high-priority projects over four years and is now open for public comment.
Balancing the needs of all users
It seems we easily divide ourselves into those who drive versus those who ride the bus versus those who bike and so forth….an “us versus them” scenario.
Well, in reality the transportation system—and the public spaces they are a part of—are used by people in a much more complex way. You might drive to your job or to shop, but there will always be some amount of walking involved, from car to final destination and back again. You might use the sidewalks for walking from place to place, but also for stopping to talk to your neighbor in a common space. You might ride your bike down the big hill but put it on a DTA bus for the trip back up.
Looking through this lens, from the perspective of the users of the transportation system, you can see how this TIP has a major focus on how to really connect people in the safest and most efficient way possible.
Continuing to fix the highways
Preservation work on the two major bridges is needed to refurbish the Blatnik (I-535) in 2012 and the Bong (US Highway 2) in 2014. These TIP projects not only have the highest price tags and but also will receive the most attention—yes, just when the I-35 reconstruction “megaproject” is finished, there will be several more years of high-profile road construction projects, on the bridges this time!
Improvements for those who walk, bike, or take the bus
While the highway projects are devoted solely to cars and trucks, funding is also included to provide a safe alternative to driving. A paved pedestrian and bicycle pathway, running parallel to I-35, will connect the whole city from west to east. The Munger Trail will eventually extend all the way to the Lakewalk by constructing short segments of a new Cross-City Trail each year. The popular Duluth Lakewalk will in turn be extended from 60th Avenue East to Highway 61, and then out to Brighton Beach up the north shore.
Funding for the Duluth Transit Authority will purchase new buses and provide operating support for both its regular route and STRIDE bus service.
And thanks to recent Complete Streets efforts in Duluth, local street projects will take into account how the roads are being used by people every day and will be designed accordingly.
The projects funded in the draft 2012-2015 Duluth area TIP balance the need to move vehicles efficiently with the needs of all people who use these public spaces, including those who utilize public transportation, those who traverse the roads by bicycle and those who are on foot.