We often hear city officials proclaim their view of the "natural" progression of a road as needing to be BIGGER and WIDER as the years go on. A few years back, aldermen in my city lobbied hard for an obscenely wide road to be built behind the Northwestern Mutual Life headquarters.
After all, went the argument, it'll need to get that big eventually....
This viewpoint is deeply flawed, to say the least, and it's costing our cities an enormous amount of money. We now pay to plow, salt, patch and otherwise and maintain a wide, four-lane road that was laid in front of long-standing houses --- this is where a residential STREET should be --- that gets very, very little traffic per day. Worse, it's only a few yards away from, and parallels, 27th Street, which was supposed to be our high-traffic commercial strip.
People who travel down 31st Street for the first time (most Franklin residents are unaware that it exists) are utterly shocked at its immensity.
No - the smart money is on REDUCING the width of roads and streets. In Minnesota, cities are paring back streets when it comes time to repave them.
A growing number of metro area cities are taking a broader, greener view of street repairs.
Instead of just rebuilding worn roads, cities such as Bloomington, Richfield and St. Paul are narrowing streets to provide space for bike lanes and sidewalks. St. Anthony has added rain basins and retention ditches to filter and re-use runoff for irrigation, officials said.
But despite little additional cost, health and environmental benefits and lower traffic speeds that improve safety, some residents have objected loudly enough to stop their streets from going green.
"They are somewhat controversial when initially proposed in a neighborhood," said Metropolitan Council member Steve Elkins, a former Bloomington council member. "But once they are put in, we have never had a neighborhood ask us to undo the bike lanes."
The city website includes a Living Streets Plan manual, estimating that shrinking 30-foot-wide residential streets by 8 feet will save 15 percent in pavement costs, enough to cover the cost of adding rainwater gardens, trees and other green improvements.
The narrower street would cut maintenance expense by about 25 percent, which could save up to $1,000 a mile per year, the manual says. The rain gardens filter runoff before sending it into streams and lakes. More walking and biking instead of driving creates healthier residents and cuts air pollution.
Read the rest at: Cities turn to a new, green path for street designs | StarTribune.com