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Complete streets idea incomplete

Published (2/18/2010)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Imagine streets that take into account the needs of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and even people with special needs. Rep. Mike Obermueller (DFL-Eagan) sponsors HF2801 that would put the “Complete Streets” concept into first gear.

The bill would push the state toward a policy that would, during the design phase of any state-aid funded road project, take into consideration the impact the roadway would have on the people who use it, and the impact on the areas that it passes through.

The bill calls for the Department of Transportation to develop and implement a policy with a goal of developing a balanced transportation system, Obermueller told the House Transportation Finance and Policy Division Feb. 16.

“There are a lot of different people who interact with our roads. Certainly there’s cars … we have transit issues, and we have a lot of people who interact with our roads in terms of riding a bike, trying to cross a road if you are senior, or a kid,” Obermueller said. He stressed that this would not be a mandate for local governments, but it would be for MnDOT.

Division members had plenty of questions about potential costs, the practicality of the policy’s implementation and if there was an implied mandate for local governments because many times state aid is used when improving the trunk highway system.

Rep. Michael Beard (R-Shakopee) said use of trunk highway funds for wider streets, more sidewalks or bike trails would create an added cost for the state.

“It strikes me as if this is another little hole punched in the bucket called the trunk highway fund,” which, he said, is constitutionally dedicated for road construction.

Because a fiscal note was not available at the hearing, Rep. Bernie Lieder (DFL-Crookston), the division chairman, laid the bill over for further consideration. A companion, SF2461, sponsored by Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), awaits action by the Senate Transportation Committee.

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