Transportation roundup

A plan for potholes

Mayor R.T. Rybak heeded constituents’ calls to 311 to fix the city’s countless potholes over its 1,000 miles of roads and called for a public works windfall.

After all, Rybak (an East Harriet resident) has to drive his plug-in Prius around Southwest just like everyone else.

“Our city, our state and our nation have not invested as we must in roads, bridges and transit,” he said of recent decisions to focus spending on public safety. “I say this standing in a city recovering from a tragic bridge collapse that was not an act of God, but a failure of man.”

In the past five years, General Fund expenditures on public safety grew 30 percent, while spending on Public Works grew only 10 percent (or below inflation), Rybak noted. This may have been one reason why this last spring was, perhaps, one of the worst on record for potholes.

Harvey Ettinger, who lives along East Lake of the Isles Parkway, confirmed as much to Southwest Journal’s Dylan Thomas last March.

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

The day after Rybak’s proposal to remedy pandemic potholes by infusing $19.5 million over the next five years to fix the city’s busiest streets and parkways, Ettinger seemed somewhat impressed.

“It’s long past due,” he said. “But there’s no simple solution. The best solution is for them to come up with a long-range plan.”

Rybak’s five-year plan called for:

• The complete resurfacing of 43 additional miles of busy streets and parkways — half of those that require resurfacing, which will extend the roads’ lives by 10–15 years.

• Seal-coating cracks and potholes in 26 miles of busy streets that will “only require prevention rather than more intensive — and expensive — resurfacing.”

The plans would be in addition to the city’s $105 million in planned capital improvements in 2008, and $495 million over the next five years.

When outlining his $27.5 million Infrastructure Acceleration Program, Rybak also pointed to the city’s deteriorating Pavement Condition Index (PCI).

The city uses the index to rank streets on a scale of 0 to 100. The lower the number, the more potholes you’ll hit.

The city number crunchers don’t break down PCI by geography, but from 1995 to 2008, numbers provided by the Public Works Department show a steady decline in PCI on residential streets — from 87 in 1995 to 76 by summer 2008. While PCI doesn’t determine which potholes get filled first, it does help with long-term planning. And millions more per year will hopefully reduce those pesky potholes on Southwest’s busiest roads and parkways.

Transportation roundup

Decision on Metro Transit rate hike expected Aug. 13

Riders will soon know whether Metro Transit bus fares will jump a quarter this year and upwards of 50 cents next year.

The Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit, says the fare increase is necessary due to the previous spike in gas prices and lower revenue from Motor Vehicle Sales Taxes. The Met Council plans to use the increase as a way to compensate for a reported $15 million budget shortfall in 2009.

Mayor R.T. Rybak still doesn’t see the higher fares as fair.

“More people than ever want to ride transit and Metro Transit should do everything possible to encourage people to use transit, not discourage them,” Rybak said. “Fare increases discourage transit rider ship, pure and simple, and Metro Transit should delay this increase and explore other options to balance their budget.”

Met Council Chair Peter Bell said in a statement that an initial fare increase, which would generate about $7 million a year, “won’t solve all of transit’s budgetary challenges.”

Therefore, another round of Metro Transit fare hikes — that could add up to another 50 cents per ride — is being proposed for 2009.

The current proposal would raise all regular-route service 25 cents, and place a 50-cent increase on riders with disabilities who use Metro Mobility. Also, morning rush-hour fares would begin at 5:30 a.m. instead of the current 6 a.m.

A Met Council decision was expected by Aug. 13. If adopted, initial fare increases would begin Oct. 1.

Minneapolis awarded for winning airport fight

In the wake of winning a decade-long fight over airport noise, Minneapolis was recently named the “Community of the Year” at the 38th Annual Conference and Aviation Noise Symposium sponsored by the National Organization to Insure a Sound-controlled Environment (NOISE).

Minneapolis was “honored for its leadership and vigor in combating the negative effects of aviation noise on residents and its successful settlement with the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC),” a release said.

The lawsuit, settled in January 2008, was led by Minneapolis and means more than 9,560 homes in Minneapolis could receive part of the $130 million in relief that includes air conditioning and some form of sound insulation.

Work on Southwest homes is scheduled to be complete by December 2012, said the project’s coordinator John Nelson.

The 60–64 Day-Night Level (DNL) of noise areas includes hundreds of single and multifamily homes and apartments in Southwest — stretching as far west as Lake Harriet, and as far north as 44th Street. In Southwest, where the majority of eligible neighborhoods (Windom, Tangletown, Kingfield and East Harriet) fall under the 60–62 DNL, work is tentatively scheduled to begin in February 2009 or January 2010.

In addition to the “Community of the Year” award, Minneapolis Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) — who also serves as NOISE president — was honored with the “2008 Environmental Steward” award.

You walk? City wants to talk

Minneapolis city officials and staff love the idea of reducing the carbon imprint of Minneapolitans. The best way to do this, arguably, is to make transportation as eco-friendly as possible. And the most eco-friendly form of transportation is walking.

So it’s no stretch that the city is forming its first-ever Pedestrian Master Plan.

And it’s asking you to help support the plan’s impetus in three ways:

• Take pictures and send them in. Photos, the city says, are a great way to help workers “understand the range of pedestrian needs and opportunities in Minneapolis.” E-mail photos of what you like and don’t like about walking in Minneapolis to [email protected]

• Fill out the Pedestrian Issues Survey. The survey, first conducted at the March 2008 public meeting, is still available online through the end of August. It can be found by Googling “Minneapolis Pedestrian Master Plan survey.”

• Attend the September 2008 public meeting. The next public meeting for the Pedestrian Master Plan will be in September. However, further details will be released in coming weeks.”

Tangletown: Expect a dip in water pressure

While water issues are almost always prevalent in the City of Lakes, 2008 has been a particularly trying year for Southwest residents.

First it was a milky white substance in Calhoun, next it was stinky water and now Tangletown residents can expect weak water pressure throughout August.

Residents living in an area bounded by 48th Street to the north, Minnehaha Parkway to the south, Lyndale to the west and Stevens Avenue to the east, can expect lower water pressure while the city does water main work below Lyndale Avenue, according to the city.

Some homes and businesses will require temporary piping during the project. Those residents have already been notified, and arrangements have been made to ensure they don’t see an interruption in their water service.

The city says water main cleaning and relining is “an important part of Minneapolis’ work to provide high quality drinking water to its residents.” City crews will clean out mineral buildup and install a new cement lining. The work, the city said, is expected to add 50 years of life to the water mains and keep the water clear.