Projects are designed for completion with road improvements
by Katy Zillmer
Sun POST Newspapers
The first county-wide pedestrian plan in the state, designed to improve safety, biking and walking opportunities, was approved by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners last week.
County staff spent the last year developing the plan, which was funded through a Community Transformation Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They asked for public feedback on the draft plan during the summer and presented a final version to the county board Sept. 24.
Projects in the plan will begin to be implemented now that the board has approved it, said Hennepin County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Rose Ryan.
The plan also seeks to improve the health of county residents by increasing walking as a method of transportation. It is designed for pedestrian improvements to be completed in conjunction with road projects already planned in the county, Ryan said.
Implementation of the plan includes:
• Constructing intersection improvements to make it easier for pedestrians to move through intersections
• Expanding the network of sidewalks and trails along county roads
• Enhancing pedestrian connections to transit
• Improving pedestrian access to schools, parks, senior centers, libraries and other key destinations
“We’re trying to focus on priority areas of schools and parks and shopping,” Ryan said.
Mass transit projects such as the Bottineau and Southwest light rail lines are opportunities to add new sidewalks and improve pedestrian access in the county, she said.
Staff received comments from residents, representatives of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the city of Minneapolis about the plan.
“The ultimate goal is to give residents the opportunity to improve their health by providing infrastructure to make walking safer and easier,” Ryan said.
It is aligned with the county’s Complete Streets and Active Living policies, as well as the 2030 Transportation Systems Plan, according to District 3 County Commissioner Gail Dorfman.
“All these policies emphasize the importance of transportation choice for county residents – choices that are safe, healthy and green and provide community connections,” Dorfman said.
Staff will continue to find funding sources for the pedestrian projects. Funding options include applying for grants from the Statewide Health Improvement Program and Safe Routes to School.
“This is definitely another sign that we are working toward making our transportation system better for all our system users,” Ryan said.
Contact Katy Zillmer at email@example.com.