We at the MIC are transportation planners. We lay the groundwork for projects that use federal tax dollars.
Large, public, tax-funded infrastructure requires a huge investment of federal, state and local funds—but then, our region’s mobility, quality of life, economic growth and competitiveness rely on the transportation network. Every household and business depends on safe, multi-modal transportation infrastructure for moving people and goods.
Local input, coordination, and planning expertise
Our job is to coordinate with all local jurisdictions so the money for this infrastructure is well-spent and reflects local priorities.
We at the MIC are also elected officials. Our Board members represent all local units of government in the Duluth-Superior area—states, counties, cities and townships. Because these neighboring jurisdictions all have responsibilities and make decisions that impact the transportation system, coordination is key to making efficient use of limited financial resources.
And the term “stakeholder” is the real deal for us – figuring out and working with those who have a vested interest in the decisions that get made. Our job is to work with the right people – planners, engineers, local officials – to set joint priorities for funding projects, agree on timelines, and to share information about the projects we’re up to.
Bottom-up planning process
This kind of cooperative process is what Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) like the MIC are designed to do, here and across the country. We facilitate a bottom-up approach to transportation planning, allowing for local input into decisions how federal funds are spent, instead of a top-down approach that would make decisions about local projects and priorities at the federal or state level.
Most important, this planning process is getting real results in our area. Here are some of our planning successes:
HTAC: a national model
Our Harbor Technical Advisory Committee, or HTAC, is recognized as a national model for doing just that—getting the right people in the room to solve problems. The HTAC is a nationally-recognized, bi-state forum to discuss issues confronting the Ports of Duluth and Superior. The HTAC brings together a broad range of industry, environmental and government stakeholders to provide sound planning and management recommendations and to promote the harbor’s economic and environmental importance to our community.
Erie Pier Management Plan: first of its kind on the Great Lakes
HTAC stakeholders have worked for many years to craft the Erie Pier Management Plan, a blueprint for transitioning the Erie Pier Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) to a first-of-its kind Processing and Reuse Facility (PRF). By creating a cost effective and environmentally sound alternative to current dredge material disposal practices for Great Lakes ports, this innovative Plan will save local taxpayers the millions of dollars it would have cost to develop a new CDF.
Landside Port Access Study: targeted roadway construction
The Landside Port Access Study was used to educate the public and policy makers about the land-based access needs of the Port and laid the foundation for funding a new roadway project (Helberg Drive) to improve access and safety.
Corridor planning: addressing problems before they arise
The MIC’s Corridor Planning initiatives seek to be proactive, by identifying and addressing problems along local roadways before they arise. They balance mobility needs with adjoining land uses and environmental and community interests.
Our North 28th Street Plan identified and made recommendations to alleviate critical transportation issues on North 28th Street, in Superior, in advance of planned road reconstruction. Significant safety concerns needed to be addressed due to several conflicting land uses, including the construction of three new schools, a skate park, a recreational trail, housing units and a newly-developed commercial area.
The Duluth Heights Traffic Circulation Study was undertaken at the request of neighbors and local elected officials to address the issue of residential streets being used as an unwelcome and unintended thoroughfare to a commercial district. Using an extensive public participation process, MIC staff worked closely with residents to document the level of cut-through traffic, and identify options to reduce impacts and improve flow in and around the neighborhood.
This planning process set the groundwork for the City to pursue funding for a new roadway connection (Joshua Avenue) between the Miller Hill commercial district and the east side of Duluth.
Long Range Planning: coordinated goals and strategies
The MIC’s Long Range Planning initiatives provide policy guidance, goals and coordinated strategies for jurisdictions within the greater metropolitan area of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI.
Directions 2035 is our Long Range Transportation Plan, setting forth a vision for the area-wide transportation network for the next 25 years. The LRTP provides a framework for working cooperatively to provide a well-maintained, integrated, accessible and multi-modal transportation system to safely and efficiently move people and freight, within the constraints of funding the region can reasonably expect to receive.
The Duluth Urban Area Growth Impact Study examines how best to accommodate growth in areas outside the urban services boundary while ensuring taxpayer protection from the consequences of inefficient patterns of development. Future land use information from each jurisdiction was used as part of a regional planning process to examine growth impacts and to identify the specific areas best suited for development.
Bike, Pedestrian and Transit Planning: mobility and quality of life
The MIC’s planning initiatives for modes of travel that are not centered on cars and trucks account annually for about 20% of our work program and budget. They are important because they aim to improve access, mobility and quality of life for all people in our area, regardless of age or physical ability, whether they travel by car, bike, bus or on foot.
The MIC’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) engages local stakeholders to provide sound planning recommendations and to provide public outreach and education about bike- and pedestrian-related plans and projects.
The Duluth-Superior Area Bike Map is our most popular product, an award-winning guide to the best on- and off-street bike routes in and through this region.
The Duluth Sidewalk Study provides technical and policy guidance to assist local elected officials in working with neighborhoods during roadway reconstruction projects. The GIS-based interactive map is a powerful tool for decision makers to apply data to the sometimes-contentious discussions about locating sidewalks on local streets.
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Plans: The MIC was an early proponent of SRTS planning, working closely with many community stakeholders collecting data, conducting field observations and identifying safety issues around schools. The MIC’s recommendations have been incorporated into many funded projects to improve bike and pedestrian access to schools in the cities of Duluth, Superior and Proctor.
Transit Planning: The MIC provides ongoing input and technical assistance on local transit initiatives including planning and securing funding for a future downtown multimodal facility. Results from a recent ridership survey will be utilized by MnDOT to determine the potential for utilizing transit service to mitigate the effects of major construction projects statewide.
This is where you come in
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how we have worked (for nearly forty years!) to ensure that federally-funded infrastructure investments are developed with input from the people who know this area best. As a local resident, do our planning initiatives reflect your priorities?