Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said she can’t support proposed plans for a downtown circulator.
“I am not supportive of taking a lane out of traffic on Broadway or Second Street as the proposal will do for bus rapid transit,” she said Friday, noting the lane reduction could create added traffic problems.
She indicated she wants to see other options reviewed, acknowledging traffic congestion will increase in 10 to 20 years.
As the Destination Medical Center Corp. board prepares to identify it’s preferred route for a downtown circulator, Olmsted County commissioners voiced concern this week about the process.
Details on the end points of a planned downtown circulator remain in flux as Rochester prepa…
“I am fully supportive of the movement of addressing our traffic, transit and parking issues,” she said.
The other seven members of the Destination Medical Center Corp. board appeared to disagree. The board voted 7-1 to identify Second Street Southwest and 10 blocks of South Broadway Avenue as a preferred route for a wheeled rapid transit system that would serve downtown and connect two transit hubs.
Rochester City Council Member Nick Campion, who also serves on the DMCC board, said the city needs to move forward to create the proposed circulator.
“We have a city, frankly, that probably already needs to have a solution in place, and we’re looking at a timeline that is going to take several years to execute,” Campion said.
The city hopes to apply for a federal grant that would cover half the cost for the system, which could be put in place as early as 2025. To prepare specific details for the grant application, which is due in less than a year, the city must obtain engineering data and start an environmental review.
Identifying a proposed route reduces the related costs, according to city staff.
It doesn’t mean the route and mode of transportation couldn’t change, however.
Patrick Seeb, DMC Economic Development Agency’s director of economic development and placemaking, said work conducted in the upcoming months will provide more details, including locations for potential transit stops and study regarding the potential impact of lane reductions.
“As we advance this work, we will check in with this board, and of course the City Council,” he said, noting changes could be made if future concerns are raised.
Olmsted County Board Chairman Jim Bier likened the issue to the former development project that was planned for several years along the Zumbro River, but failed to continue after too many questions and concerns were raised.
In indicating the potential for change along the way, he was echoing a position he stated earlier in the week when his fellow county commissioners raised concerns about the proposed route.
“It can change,” he said Tuesday, noting the Broadway proposal was merely the first option. “It will change. It would be highly unusual that what’s presented here is what will happen.”
Friday, DMCC Board Member Paul Williams said he believes some of the traffic concerns may be unwarranted, noting he lives on the Twin Cities’ A Line, a bus rapid transit route.
“Communities have a way of adjusting to that, and I think we will learn more about that in the year coming up,” he said.
DMCC Board Chairman R.T. Rybak said that while he agrees with some of Norton’s concerns about future needs in Rochester, he disagrees on the circulator proposal, noting three years of study have ruled out many other options based on cost or feasibility.
“At a certain point, people need to act,” he said.
With the DMCC board’s approval of a preferred circulator route and mode, the Rochester City Council is slated to vote on the proposal during its 7 p.m. meeting Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center.