Saturday, October 6, 2012

Well... at least we're not Minnetrista...

Some, in the Highland Road neighborhood in Minnetrista, are not happy.
The Minnetrista City Council approved assessments to 13 properties after the completion of the Highland Road Improvement Project on Oct. 1, but not before three property owners filed appeals....  Out of 13 properties, eight were assessed $11,000, three were assessed $9,000 and two were assessed $1,000.
As my Norwegian farmer uncle would say... "Uff-da".

Let's take a step back and look at what was done.
The brown is the old Highland Road. Note the hairpin turns that used to force automobiles to slow down.
One major issue was two very sharp hairpin turns on the old Highland Road next to the Dakota Trail. I don't remember driving this road more than once myself, but I recall the very sharp turns here, really slowing down my car. Slower cars mean safer streets, especially around the Dakota Trail crossing.

The other issue was that Highland Road was it terrible condition and needing attention badly. Of course, bad roads also slow down traffic, though they also add significantly to wear and tear of our vehicles.

They clearly spent A LOT of money to straighten out those two hairpin turns, acquiring property and total construction of two short road beds, on top of the rest of the Highland Road construction. The cost for the entire project was $1.75 million dollars. The 13 residents are paying $117 thousand of that, so the city is paying $1.6+ million dollars.

The question you should be asking is, "How can Minnetrista afford to pay $1.6 million dollars for this project?!?!

Well, that comes at the end of the story....
majority of the road reconstruction was funded using state aid money
... ah... so this is a MSA street project. As we've looked at before, Mound is going to be starting a series of reconstruction of it's MSA 'streets' in the next couple years.

Now you should be asking, "What does it mean for Highland to be a MSA street?"

Here are the good things about a MSA street...

  • Street built so cars can get through fast. I imagine cars will be cutting 30 seconds off their commute time.
  • State provides most of the funding for the street construction, so city saves money.
  • Emergency vehicles also probably improve response times because of this construction

Here are some of the problems about having a MSA street...

  • Cars will be going by your home or business fast, the street is not built for pedestrians or bicyclists.
  • Generally people do not like to be on, or around MSA streets. They are not a pleasant place.
  • Your home and business is a place to drive through, not to.

The other problems for the Highland Road project, where cars used to go through the Dakota Trail crossing slow because of those hairpin turns, cars now can just barrel on through, and are essentially being allowed, even encouraged to not worry so much about the trail. It seems like this is making the trail crossing more dangerous.

The city approved the assessments last week, citing ALL the positive comments from other residents about the projects. Of course, most of those people are more concerned about just driving through this neighborhood, than having anything to do with it. And the city loves this, as it gets to improve Highland Road without really having to pay for it. The state of Minnesota is paying for it!

It's not really fair of me to pick on Minnetrista here today. Hundreds of cities in Minnesota accept MSA money to build these streets, including Mound, and why wouldn't they.  Free streets!

The problem is that the MSA streets are mainly built to connect places, and give people opportunities to drive past neighborhoods and businesses at high speeds, usually only cutting seconds off a commute. The cost of them is that they hurt the local scene.

The worst part about this is, the state of Minnesota will give a city millions of dollars so people can cut 30 seconds off a commute time! Millions of dollars for 30 seconds?! Is that 30 seconds THAT important?

We bring up Bartlett Boulevard often here at "A Place in Mound". It's a street/road hybrid for cars that's next to a school, churches and neighborhood and it's a place not safe for children or people. People don't like to walk or bike on it.

Bartlett Boulevard, like it's new counterpart, Highland Road in Minnetrista, brings no value to the place it's built on.

Mound already suffers from seven miles of MSA streets, including Bartlett Boulevard by Shirley Hills school.
Actually, MSA streets hurt the neighborhood.

Fortunately for Mound, this is a time it could change the direction for it's Boulevards as many of these streets are due to be reconstructed in the next few years, starting with Three Points Boulevard next year.

So what do you want Mound? Do you want to build places to Drive to, or places to Drive through?

Edited - I had originally posted that Minnetrista had spent $160 million, when it was $1.6 million. My apologies.


  1. Someone emailed a comment...

    One correction: ~ $1.6 million, not ~ $160 million.

    For another example, Fergus Falls got a new $15 million road and bridge this fall courtesy of state/federal aid with even less skin in the game:

    Estimate: $15,200,000
    Federal Funds: $ 8,900,000 (Federal Gas Tax Funds)
    State Funds: $ 1,800,000 (State Legislative Grant)
    County Funds: $ 2,250,000 (CSAH-State Gas Tax Funds)
    City Funds: $ 2,250,000 (MSAS-State Gas Tax Funds)

    With this kind of outlay, one would assume that it's a crucial link in our transportation network, but it's more of a shortcut to Fleet Farm and Target for about 100 households than anything else.

  2. Hi George, Josh and I use this road everyday and we actually think it is safer now. It is smoother, more open, no more blind turn at the trail and because of the new route it now diverts away from a large part of the neighborhood it use to run through, so kids can more safely stand out on the street for the bus in that part of the neighborhood. Just our two cents.

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