Pothole Parkway

EAST ISLES– When pothole season rolls around each spring, it doesn’t just come to one street; it arrives everywhere in Minneapolis at once.

And yet, Harvey Ettinger saw something remarkable March 18 that reinforced his belief that the pothole problem on his street — East Lake of the Isles Parkway — was among the most serious in the city.

Within one hour that night, Ettinger said, he saw two cars get flat tires after hitting massive potholes near his house, on the parkway’s 2600 block. (Ettinger provided the drivers’ names, and they confirmed the story.)

A resident of the Chain of Lakes area for about 30 years, Ettinger said this spring’s thaw turned the badly deteriorated roadway into “an obstacle course.”

“This is the worst,” he said, “the worst in all my years.”

In March, Public Works officials were working on a plan to move up a scheduled renovation of the parkway to 2009 from 2011. The proposal would “front-load” the next three years of parkway renovation funding to complete the project early, said Mike Kennedy, director of transportation maintenance and repair.

Kennedy said Public Works was reacting to citizen concern while at the same time attempting to limit the time and money it spends filling potholes on the parkway. Crews patched the parkway multiple times over the winter and were back out shoveling hot asphalt March 20 — the day after Ettinger brought his concerns before the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.

“We’re putting way too many resources into a mile-and-a-half of parkway compared to a thousand miles of (city) streets,” Kennedy said. “There are plenty of other problems out there.”

Ahead of schedule

Kennedy said work on Lake of the Isles Parkway would include a mill and overlay of the existing parkway, as well as “selective” curb and gutter replacement. The cost was estimated about $2 million, he said.

Each year, Public Works sets aside only $500,000—$800,000 for its parkway renovation program, so Lake of the Isles Parkway renovation would eat up approximately three years worth of funding.

“The plan was to save the money up over the next few years and then do it all in 2011,” Kennedy said. “That makes no sense, to have it sit there like that. And we can’t tolerate having to go out there and patch it, anymore.”

Instead, Public Works proposed to finance the entire project in 2009 and delay any other parkway renovation projects until after 2011. The proposal still has to clear the budgeting process, but Kennedy predicted the mayor and City Council would approve it.

“We’re confident this has a good chance of happening,” he said.

Park Board General Manager Michael Schmidt said it made sense to complete the parkway renovation early, before rising oil prices pushed up paving costs any further. Whether the renovation was completed in 2009 or 2011, Lake of the Isles would have been the only parkway scheduled for renovation during that three-year period, anyway, Schmidt added.

“There are other parkways that need to be fixed, but the commitment was this was the next area we were going to,” he said.

Planning to pave

Planning for parkway renovation is the joint responsibility of Public Works and the Park Board. The Park Board owns the parkways, but under a long-standing agreement, funding for parkway renovation comes through Public Works.

Schmidt said Park Board officials originally sought to rebuild Lake of the Isles parkway with state funds.

State bonding financed an effort to restore parkland and mitigate flooding around Lake of the Isles, a major project now entering its final phase. When it became clear in about 2006 that roadwork would not be included in the bonding, Lake of the Isles Parkway was put back on the parkway renovation schedule with Public Works, Schmidt said.

Still, Public Works officials wanted to wait until most of the work around the shores of Lake of the Isles was completed before starting major roadwork. There was concern truck traffic could damage a newly paved roadway, Kennedy said.

Not soon enough

For Justin Hendrickson, parkway restoration couldn’t come soon enough. Hendrickson already blew out a tire and bent two wheel rims.

“I’ve never seen a road in worse condition than that,” he said.

Stevens Square resident Hendrickson was the first driver Ettinger saw that night in March when two vehicles got stuck in front of Ettinger’s home.

Hendrickson said he regularly used East Lake of the Isles Parkway as a shortcut home from the western suburbs. That night, driving a brand-new 2008 Honda Accord, the trip cost him roughly $1,400.

“It stings,” he said.

Lowry Hill resident Marty Broan said he used the parkway regularly to pick up his children from school.

“It’s a very convenient and beautiful road for us to use,” Broan said.

There was no question for him. He said the road was “significantly worse” this year than in his memory.

So, Broan found it encouraging that pressure from nearby residents like Ettinger seemed to get the attention of Public Works and the Park Board.

“It is definitely a case … where citizen communications actually make a difference,” he said.2009 renovation of Lake of the Isles Parkway under consideration