A nicer place for cyclists, walkers all part of city's plan
Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN), 2014-06-14
June 14 --A plan is underway to make South St. Paul a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly community.
Sidewalks, trails and bikeways, street crossings, signage and programs to promote walking and biking will be addressed in the plan, which will be developed over the next year with feedback and ideas from residents, City Planner Peter Hellegers said.
"The goal is to try and find out what people are using and see where there are gaps in the system," Hellegers said.
Rosemount and West St. Paul recently developed similar plans, parts of which are now being implemented in both cities.
South St. Paul has two regional trails winding through it -- the North Urban Regional Trail that stretches into West St. Paul and the Mississippi River Regional Trail that runs south into Inver Grove Heights .
But unlike other cities with plenty of undeveloped areas, South St. Paul is limited with where it can put new trails, Hellegers said.
"We have sidewalks in some places and then we have the street, and we don't have a lot of other ways of connecting bicycles," he said, adding one idea is to designate certain streets as bike routes.
One fault with the current sidewalk system is a lack of connectivity of some sidewalks that run east-west in an area near Interstate 494 , he said.
"That was something people have pointed out," he said. "If you drive up and down Fifth Avenue or Seventh Avenue you'll see sidewalks, so it may not occur to you that there's not connectivity."
The planning process is being funded through a $30,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Health's Statewide Health Improvement Program, which aims to help residents live longer, healthier lives by reducing chronic disease.
It is also a result of South St. Paul's involvement with the Dakota County Active Living Partnership , a group of 11 cities and other stakeholders whose focus is to suggest policy changes that will encourage increased physical activity.
South St. Paul has posted a questionnaire on its website and also plans to gather input at several community events this summer, including Kaposia Days later this month.
Last year, Rosemount built a pedestrian underpass across South Robert Trail after the area was identified in the city's bike and pedestrian plan. The city previously implemented a program that encourages local businesses and nonprofit organizations to buy bike racks at a reduced cost.
West St. Paul officials are also pushing for a pedestrian bridge to be built over busy South Robert Street that would be part of the North Urban Regional Trail .
"One of the big things about our plan is it gave us some guidelines to use as we went forward for new development and redevelopment," said Dan Schultz , Rosemount's parks and recreation director. "It gives us something to follow and some goals."
A draft of the South St. Paul plan should be available for public review and comment this fall, Hellegers said.
Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173. Follow him at twitter.com/NFerraroPiPress .
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