STRIDE forms to oppose road construction

A group called STRIDE — Southside Traffic Reduction Initiative for Determining our Environment — has formed to oppose plans to add Lake Street ramps at I-35W and widen Lake Street.

The group has launched a website — www.stride-mn.org — and has a handful of members. It is holding a meeting at Hosmer Library, 347 E. 36th St., Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. to broaden its base, said Kingfield’s Ken Avidor, one of the organizers.

"Our mission is to work with public officials, businesses, neighborhoods and individuals in implementing the following goals of the Minneapolis Plan: ‘Enhance the opportunities for pedestrian and bicycle movement,’ as well as to put ‘Transit First!’" the website said.

Avidor criticizes current drawings for a flyover ramp from northbound I-35W to 28th Street and new freeway access ramps at Lake Street. He and Whittier’s Scott Smedberg, another STRIDE organizer, say corporate interests, not neighborhood interests, have driven the I-35W Access Project.

Two major south Minneapolis employers — Allina Health Systems, which operates Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and Wells Fargo — want the access ramps and "have gotten 100 percent of what they want" in current plans, Smedberg said.

The I-35W Access Project has brought together business, government and neighborhood representatives to discuss and shape the project. Avidor said it is inappropriate to have Smith Parker as lead staff to the Access Project, since Smith Parker also has Wells Fargo and Allina as clients.

Smith Parker "can’t possibly act as an objective and fair group in this," Avidor said.

Tom Johnson of Smith Parker, the project manager for the Access Project, calls such allegations "a cheap shot."

"It is an easy target to point to Allina or Wells Fargo," Johnson said. "It is not fair. The allegation is not true. They do not demand I deliver a project over the backs of the communities. They want the outcome to be satisfactory to everyone."

Johnson called neighborhood participation in the process "extraordinary," noting that half the members of the Project Advisory Committee are neighborhood representatives.

"Our firm has represented Wells Fargo and Allina, but attorneys here have represented them on employer-employee issues," Johnson said. "We do not represent them on such projects as the Access Project."

Smedberg said he hoped STRIDE would take on the I-35W project as the first of a number of traffic reduction efforts. He wants the group to become an information clearinghouse.

For more information on STRIDE, call Smedberg at 874-6834.