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.

Bike Lanes or Multi-use Trail: Learning More about Highway 61 Concept Designs

As the community has the opportunity to provide feedback on two concept designs for the Highway 61 corridor through Grand Marais, there are many things to consider. This is an important opportunity to shape the future of Grand Marais and each community member has a unique set of experiences and perspectives to share. With this in mind, we’re highlighting some of the different features and options in the current concept designs to help encourage individual input on the designs.

One of the differences between the two concept designs is the way bicycles are accommodated: on street bike lanes or a multi-use trail. Each option has its own pros and cons, while both would offer better bicycle accommodations that the current corridor. Even for those of us that do not bike, these designs have benefits for drivers as well.

What are on street bike lanes and multi-use trails?

In Concept Design A, bike lanes provide 5 foot wide dedicated pavement width for bicycle use, created with painted lines on the pavement. In Concept Design B, a multi-use trail provides 12 foot wide dedicated pavement for 2-way pedestrian use including bicycles, separated from the road.

Concept A  Concept-A with circlesConcept-B with circle

Why would we choose on street bike lanes over a multi-use trail?

Some bicyclists prefer to use the road and bike lanes support the existing and future use of the roadway for bicyclists. The use of bike lanes also separates pedestrian and bicyclist traffic, which can have extra advantages in areas with more foot travel. In parts of the corridor, shared use of a multi-use trail has already been an issue at times with congestion. Road separated multi-use trails create potential driveway crossing conflicts due to limited visibility of the crossing. This can be especially of concern to faster moving cyclists, who are more visible in on street bike lanes. The use of bike lanes on Highway 61 through Grand Marais also replicates an existing bike lane system in the downtown of Grand Marais. In the winter months, on street bike lanes can be plowed with the road, not creating any additional snowplowing demands.

Why would we choose a multi-use trail over on street bike lanes?

A multi-use trail also has its advantages over on street bike lanes. By using the multi-use trail option, we could continue the existing Gitchi Gami State Trail through the length of the corridor on the south side until Broadway, when it could potentially switch back to the north side of the road, creating a continuous multiuse facility through the corridor. This multi-use trail would be two feet wider than the existing multi-use trail, creating more space for a variety of users. A multi-use trail provides a grade separated facility that helps protect pedestrians and bicyclists from vehicles. This may be especially appealing to bicyclists not comfortable with on street riding in the corridor, such as young riders. Multi-use trails, if left unstriped, also do not require the painting upkeep as bike lanes do.

What does this mean for drivers?

The design of the road, intersections, and driveways will help improve circulation and safety by better defining vehicular movements at driveways and bringing some angled intersections to 90 degrees. Both entries into town are designed to better inform drivers they are entering a pedestrian zone where slower speeds are required. The road needs to speak to the drivers not just MPH Signs. This results in a better informed driver and safer driving condition. Existing traffic, from local to heavy commercial, is accounted for in the new road design. Bike lanes help dictate bicycle behavior easing vehicle circulation in general. Better designed crosswalk at the correct locations minimizes arrant erratic pedestrian crossings and improves safety and vehicle circulation.

While these are not all the factors to consider, we hope this will help illuminate some of the benefits and trade-offs that are inherent in making community design decisions.

 

How can I share my thoughts?

The City of Grand Marais needs your input and not only on whether bike lanes or a multi-use path would be preferable for you. Take a few moments to look at the concept designs and provide your feedback at: www.becausemovingmatters.org/highway61. Feedback will be welcomed until Wednesday, November 26th.

 

Opportunity to View Highway 61 Concept Designs and Provide Feedback: Oct. 28th

Join the City of Grand Marais on October 28th for an open house and presentation of concept designs for Highway 61 through Grand Marais. Your feedback and input is needed! A light meal will be provided and free childcare* will be available at the Cook County Community YMCA.

Tuesday, October 28th
6 – 8 pm
Bethlehem Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall
417 1st Ave. West, Grand Marais

Questions? Contact Mike Roth, City Administrator at cityhall@boreal.org or call (218) 387-1848. For more information and updates, visit www.becausemovingmatters.org/highway61.

*Free childcare is available for families participating in the evening, for children age 4 months and over. Drop-off will be at the YMCA starting at 5:30 pm, pick-up after the event.

Highway 61 Meeting #2