Your Feedback Requested on Highway 61 Concept Designs

6D 3rd Highway 61 Redesign Meeting 131 resized

On February 24th, over 50 community members gathered in Grand Marais for the third meeting of Highway 61 Revisited, a process for envisioning a redesign of the Highway 61 corridor through Grand Marais.

The meetings have been convened by the City of Grand Marais after redesign of Highway 61 was deemed a priority by the city council last year with community input. While Highway 61 through Grand Marais is a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) road, the meetings have created an opportunity for community members to share their vision for the future of the highway corridor. This has resulted in two concept designs for the corridor. “There has been excellent community participation in the process both at in-person meetings [with over 50 attendees at each meeting] as well as through online comment opportunities and in one-on-one conversations with property owners along the corridor,” conveyed Mike Fischer with LHB, Inc. at the meeting on the 24th.

During the most recent meeting, the design team, including consultants CJ Fernandez and Jason Aune of Aune Fernandez Landscape Architects and Mike Fischer of LHB, Inc., shared an update on the ongoing conceptual design process, including revised concept designs and the next steps. There was also an update on the Health Impact Assessment on the project, which is being led by the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic with the assistance of a community committee. The group discussion identified many areas that the process has begun to address and those that the city will continue to investigate with community involvement, including parking, safe crossings, street landscaping, and a walk/bike trail.

“A locally led community visioning process is not the normal way highway projects are begun,” says City Administrator Mike Roth. “This has given our community the opportunity to guide future investment in the highway to meet our local needs.” Although the developed concept designs are not final, they have been created based on the conditions of the corridor, within current right-of-way, and using appropriate standards such as lane widths. To ensure this, MnDOT District 1 staff has been consulted by the design team through the process and was in attendance at the meeting. As the project continues, the City will provide additional opportunities for the community to participate and refine the plans.

While MnDOT does not have a Highway 61 project on its current schedule, this local process has been an opportunity to envision design needs for the community to be ready when the opportunity arises for a project. The design team has identified the scope of a potential project and will be making estimates of probable project costs. The City of Grand Marais has made an application for federal funds to assist with pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure in the corridor and expect to hear in April whether they are successful. When the project is scheduled, a formal process would begin, starting with pre-design and finishing with construction which can take up to several years.

The opportunity for feedback on the current concept designs will be open until Monday, March 23rd at www.becausemovingmatters.org/highway61, where the current drafts may be viewed and an online comment card is available. The designs may also be viewed at City Hall, 15 N. Broadway, Grand Marais, MN, and paper comment cards will be available.

Come Hear about Great Places and How to Apply for 2015 Mini-Grants on Feb. 19th

 

The 2015 Great Place Project will be launched at the February Networking Luncheon (Feb. 19th) hosted by the Cook County Chamber of Commerce and Cook County Higher Education. The Great Place team will be presenting about the 2014 round of mini-grants and offering the opportunity to learn more about the 2015 project.

We encourage interested businesses, organizations, and individuals (such as artists, craftspeople, etc.) to join us to learn more about the project and take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and connect with others to explore possible collaborations (such as a business location with a local artist).

February Networking Luncheon, featuring the Great Place Project
Thursday, February 19th at 11:30-1pm
Location: Cook County Higher Education 300 West 3rd Street Grand Marais, MN
Cost (Includes Lunch Catered by Crooked Spoon): $10

To register or for more information about the luncheon, contact 218-387-3411, highered@northshorecampus.org, or www.northshorecampus.org.

For more information about the Great Place Project, please visit www.becausemovingmatters.org/greatplaceproject or contact Maren at movingmatters@boreal.org or 218-387-2330 x110. Applications will be available starting on Thurs., Feb. 19th. Attendance at this event is NOT required to apply for the 2015 Great Place Project.

The 8 to 80 Rule

crossing

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to hear international speaker, Gil Penalosa, speak in Duluth. Gil Penalosa is the executive director of the Toronto-based organization “8-80 Cities,” and is passionate about cities for all people. Throughout his compelling hour-long presentation, Penalosa spoke of a simple concept: cities and communities that work for our children (8 year olds) and our seniors (80 year olds). 8 - 80 Cities

So what does Penalosa’s “8 to 80 Rule” tell us about Highway 61 in Grand Marais? The 8 to 80 rule is simple:

  1. Think of an older adult.
  2. Think of a child.
  3. Would you send them out together for a walk to the park?

If you would, it is safe enough. If you wouldn’t, it needs to be improved. Let’s apply this to Highway 61 in Grand Marais. Would you send your loved one, an older adult or a child, across Highway 61?

This week I explored this question with elders and children in our community. I shared lunch with a group of eight 5th-7th graders at Great Expectations School. When asked about any problems they have encountered on 61 in Grand Marais, the group yelled out a cacophony:

Cars don’t stop!

One young woman followed up:

You pretty much have to make a gesture like stepping out in the road before you try to cross. Even in the crosswalks, cars don’t stop.

The group consensus was that many families have the rule that children have to be 11 years old before they can cross 61 alone, and children are encouraged to cross only at certain locations. So in regards to the 8 to 80 Rule, something needs to improve for safe crossing of 61.

Frankie Jarchow, a representative of the elderly on the Active Living Steering Committee, met with fellow bridge players to gather feedback about the unique concerns and ideas of active seniors. Frankie shared comments from 9 seniors in their 60-80’s. Several comments addressed issues facing the Highway 61 corridor for seniors or the disabled:

Not shoveled sidewalks, crossing the busy highway, very difficult and dangerous to cross the road, crossing the street at Highway 61 can be dangerous either by car or foot.

It turns out that the children and seniors we spoke with this week agree that the 8 to 8o Rule tells us we need to make improvements for safe crossing of Highway 61 in Grand Marais. Does this surprise anyone? I don’t think so. Safe crossings have been one of the most agreed upon concerns in the Highway 61 redesign process. As we dream and plan about a redesign of Highway 61, or any new projects within our communities, let’s make sure that the proposed solutions create a space that works for our 8 to 80 year olds.