Today at streets.mn,, I review models from other regional governments that have addressed climate change in their efforts. The Met Council could use these as models for the forthcoming ThriveMSP 2040 plan.
Over at streets.mn, I’ve tried to lay out how the Metropolitan Council’s next regional plan should address climate change.
A reader shares this infographic from carinsurance.org, which decries “America’s crumbling infrastructure“.
Ryan O’Connor shares this infographic from Strong Towns on the challenges facing Memphis (and the potential solutions). This may be one of the more straightforward explanations of Strong Towns solutions I’ve seen to date.
Incidentally, the very first comment on the carinsurance.org infographic is from Chuck Marohn, Strong Towns founder.
The lack of context in this bit of propaganda is disappointing. It is formatted to insinuate that there is this huge problem with maintenance (there is) and that the problem is not enough money (it isn’t). If you start to break out these numbers you see that every American family of four has the responsibility to pay to maintain 176 feet of pipe ($26,400), 5 feet of highway ($5,700), 0.6% of a bridge ($20,000). $2.2 trillion is $29,000 for a family of four OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. Maybe….just maybe….we’re not making very productive use out of everything that has been built up to this point and, if so, maybe….just maybe….a more viable economic solution would be to start. Come on CarInsurance.org – you can do much better than simply repeating ASCE’s worn out propaganda.
The Metropolitan Council has officially kicked off their public engagement campaign for the 2040 regional plan – called Thrive MSP 2040. I know you don’t like the name, but pay attention because this plan will eventually shape all the regional policy plans (growth, transportation, housing, natural resources) and set the requirements for individual community comprehensive plans.
MinnPost: You’ve long been against the plans for a big freeway-style bridge plans south of Stillwater. Is cost your major concern?
Rep. Betty McCollum: Cost should be every Minnesota taxpayer’s concern. Did you know the proposed St. Croix mega-bridge would be the most expensive bridge ever built in Minnesota? This project will cost $700 million and serve 18,000 vehicles the day it opens. Compare that to the $390 million price tag for building BOTH the new Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis and the Lafayette Bridge under construction in downtown St. Paul. The I-35W and Lafayette bridges are used by nearly 300,000 Minnesotans every day.
Based on the facts, the mega-bridge fails every common-sense test of taxpayer value. The mega-bridge wastes taxpayer money, especially when smaller, less-expensive options are available. Stillwater needs and deserves a new bridge, but a $700 million mega-bridge only six miles from the I-94 crossing is both excessive and irresponsible.
MinnPost: How about the environmental concerns?
McCollum: The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is the law of the land. It should be respected, not tampered with, as is being proposed in both the House and Senate legislation. I believe the Stillwater Lift Bridge can be replaced in a way that’s compatible with the letter and spirit of the law. The St. Croix is the only river in Minnesota protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The current design has been litigated and delayed for years and years because it violates the law.
Beyond Minnesota, the mega-bridge sets a new, dangerously low standard that would threaten every mile of every protected river in the national Wild and Scenic River system.
MinnPost: You’ve said that a new bridge would benefit Wisconsin more than Minnesota. How does that work?
McCollum: The estimates I’ve seen show 75 percent of the bridge traffic would be from Wisconsin, while Minnesota taxpayers pay the majority of the costs.
MinnPost: Would a new bridge feed urban sprawl, too?
McCollum: The proposed four-lane, freeway-style mega-bridge is designed to accelerate urban sprawl. But growth at the edges of the metro has come to a screeching halt because of the housing slump and high gas prices. So the bridge is not only poor urban planning, but it’s also out of sync with today’s economic realities. A smaller, appropriately scaled bridge can meet the transportation needs of both Minnesota and Wisconsin residents, regardless of population growth in St. Croix County.
Net Density has been on a little bit of a hiatus lately, mostly because of the deluge of summer-time activities. In Minnesota, we have to take advantage of the weather while we can. No one is indoors reading planning blogs, right?
Well, if you aren’t out riding your bike or drinking beer on a dock somewhere and you need some planning wonk, you can see me presenting on LEED ND for Regional Planning at the Twin Cities Research Group next Wednesday, June 8th.
TCRG Brown Bag Speaker Series:
Wednesday, June 8, Noon to 1:00 p.m.
Topic: Location Efficiency in the Twin Cities: Using LEED-ND for Regional Planning
How can our region accommodate the expected addition of a million people between now and 2030 while protecting critical natural systems, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, using infrastructure efficiently and building vibrant and economically competitive communities? This presentation demonstrates that the principles of LEED-ND (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development rating system) can be applied to develop more effective regional planning and growth management policies. GIS analysis was used to show what areas of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region are eligible for LEED-ND based on location requirements and existing built form.
Featured Speaker: Brendon Slotterback, AICP, LEED AP, is a Sustainability Program Coordinator at City of Minneapolis
Where: Wilder Foundation, Room 2610, 451 Lexington Parkway (at University Ave), Saint Paul, MN 55114
Map with the meeting’s location is at www.TwinCitiesResearch.org
As always, we will have an open discussion with the presenter at the end of the hour. Join us to participate with your ideas, questions, and suggestions.
Writing for Minnpost, Steve Berg points out that most politicians seem to view the Stillwater bridge as a freeway-style-bridge versus no freeway-style-bridge proposition, even though there may be another alternative.
What might this new bridge look like?
As I wrote here on March 4, a new bridge should relieve Stillwater’s summertime traffic problems without inducing an excessive amount of sprawl development on the Wisconsin side of the river. Obviously, its design should not intrude on the historic and natural quality of the valley.
That means a so-called “low, slow” solution (PDF) — a bridge that wouldn’t span the river from bluff top to bluff top but drop down to a level more in scale with the existing Lift Bridge. Speeds (and noise) should be kept to a minimum. Engineers might consider a three-lane design that would allow east-west flexibility depending on traffic flow. The bridge should be dynamically tolled as a way to fairly shift costs to users and to help manage traffic buildup in the area.
The park service, in rejecting the freeway-style bridge, seemed almost to invite such a design while rejecting outright the freeway-style bridge that MnDOT proposed.
Note that Berg calls for “dynamic tolling” to shift the cost to users, manage traffic and assumedly reduce sprawl (not subsidize low-density development in Wisconsin). Other expert sources say a 4-lane bridge would not have enough demand to pay the tolls required to fund it, so I assume demand from a slower, narrower span would not generate enough in tolls to pay the cost. Perhaps this is why MNDOT has floated the idea of a $3 toll, which would only cover half of the construction cost (but would cover maintenance) of the bigger bridge.
Dear Senators Franken and Klobuchar and Governor Dayton,
I’m writing to urge you not to support a new bridge across the St. Croix River near Stillwater. A new bridge would hugely encourage sprawl, which damages the environment, requires costly infrastructure such as sewers and roads, and fosters unhealthy automobile-dependent lifestyles. Furthermore, a new bridge is not necessary, since the I-94 bridge just 5 miles south of Stillwater has a great deal of excess capacity.
I think building a four lane bridge to replace a two lane bridge does not fully count as “preservation”, but rather as “expansion”. Given the state of the network, and the need to give priority to preservation, a four lane bridge violates that principal. As to whether a four lane bridge passes a B/C test, or better yet, a market test of whether a private firm would build it, the answer is clearly no. This four-lane bridge would not have enough demand to pay the tolls required to fund it. That should tell you something about its true necessity. The Franken article cited above suggested Wisconsin wasn’t interested in funding it. Since the majority of benefits for the bridge accrue to Wisconsin land owners, it makes no sense for Minnesota to lead on this.
From MPR News:
Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman Brad Larsen says a MnDOT study shows a $1.50 toll each way would, over time, raise nearly half the cost of a new $642 million St. Croix River bridge.
Larsen says a tolling plan would need clearance at both the federal and state level.
I think it is encouraging that MN DOT is considering (or at least exploring) tolls to pay for this bridge. I don’t think the bridge is necessary, but if it is built, tolls should pay for it. A more glaring example of how the system subsidizes greenfield, exurban development is hard to find.
Note that as it stands, the bridge cannot be built because the National Park Service has determined the bridge would “fundamentally change the scenic qualities that existed when the St. Croix was designated a national wild and scenic river in 1972″ and would have “direct and adverse effects that cannot be avoided or eliminated.”