Could lagging transit plans jeopardize DMC?

The Honorable R.T. Rybak, the Mayor of Minneapolis, has been appointed to serve a four-year term on the DMC board. As Mayor, Mr. Rybak has led a multi-pronged approach to adding jobs and growing the city's economy through helping small businesses succeed, fostering innovation, increasing regional cooperation, and training displaced workers in fast-growing sectors. Under his leadership, Minneapolis has topped many national lists of the best cities in which to live, work, visit, and do business. Mayor Rybak understands how to create successful partnerships between the public and private sectors.

The Destination Medical Center initiative needs a major jolt to its transportation planning efforts or it could face serious challenges and even jeopardize the success of the initiative in the future.

That was the message Thursday from DMC Corporation Board member R.T. Rybak to city of Rochester staff and the city's transportation program management consultant after an update delivered at a DMCC board meeting. Rybak said he was incredibly frustrated by the transportation planning effort thus far and called the work that has been delivered to date unacceptable and inadequate.

Richard Freese, Rochester public works director, and Ken Holte, a principal with transportation consultant SRF, updated the board on their recent work. It was largely centered on coordinating a number of other consultants to tackle studies on transportation management, parking, streets and other subject areas. There is about $1.8 billion in transportation infrastructure work expected.

"We've made some pretty good progress," Holte said. "These are some pretty intense studies."

Rybak was concerned the DMCC board and other agencies still were unclear on overarching questions — would visitors to the city be directed in on Second Street Southwest or Civic Center Drive? Where would they park? Would the parking be at grade, above or below grade? What transit options would move people from parking to the downtown areas?


"I'm incredibly frustrated with the fact that we don't have more of that," Rybak said.

The DMC initiative is only in the second of three phases of transportation planning — concept; refinement and approval; and finalizing agreements and implementation — Freese responded. To make decisions at this point could threaten the initative's ability to secure outside funding sources.

"There is not sufficient detail in the vision plan to make any decisions at this point if you are going to seek any sort of additional outside funding," Freese said.

"We've been proceeding with the understanding, as outlined in the DMC vision, that there's a considerable leveraging of local dollars against the available state and federal monies that might be available if we jump through those hoops.

"I hate bureaucracy as much as anybody but … we've got to follow a process and that process is unfortunately a lot longer than any of us want it to be," Freese concluded.

Rybak, a former Minneapolis mayor, said he was very familiar with the process of joining local, state and federal monies for transportation projects. In other projects, he has had more information on deadlines for studies and other decisions than he has had in the DMC process, Rybak said.

"The fact that at this point we don't have that information … with the money we're spending, with the consultants we're hiring, is absolutely to me completely and 100 percent unacceptable. Unless we turn this around, we are going to jeopardize this project," he said.

Lt. Gov. and DMCC Board Chairwoman Tina Smith said the board would expect a more detailed and specific update on transportation at the board's next meeting, June 23.


Rybak later told the Post-Bulletin he was excited by the property development taking place in the DMC district but without a clearer picture of transportation functions, development could be impeded.

"I think as soon as we catch up the transportation plan we'll be in great shape, but right now, we need to know much more rapidly where people are supposed to park, what kind of transportation vehicles we're going to be using and how different businesses interact with that," he said.

ken holte.jpg
Ken Holte

What To Read Next
Get Local