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Plan calls for increasing access to walking and biking routes in Rochester

Proposed active transportation plan is an update to the 2012 bicycle master plan and highlights 10 potential projects for improved pedestrian and bike connections.

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A boy stops on his bike and watches traffic on 14th Street NE in Rochester. The proposed active transportation plan for Rochester seeks to define ways to improve access and safety on and along city roadways.
Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — A proposed update to Rochester’s 2012 Bicycle Master Plan s ets a priority for improving accessible routes in the city for all ages and abilities, with a focus on 10 potential future projects.

“This plan intends to guide the creation of meaningful connections to our everyday destinations via connected street networks, intentional design and emphasis safety and comfort for all users of the road,” Rochester planner Matt Tse said of the proposed plan that broadens the scope to include all types of people-powered transportation, which includes walking, wheelchairs and strollers.

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Colin Harris, an engineer with Alta Planning + Design, said the 214-page plan is an attempt to address an increased interest in walking and biking to destinations. A study indicated short trips are frequent among Rochester residents.

“More than half of Rochester's 510,00 daily trips are under 3 miles,” he told the Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday.

While trips are short, he said some roadways, rivers and a lack of controlled intersections can push people to driving a car, rather than walking or using a bike.

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To highlight the concern, he pointed out pedestrian and bicycle crashes make up 2% of crashes in Rochester, but they account for 39% of fatal crashes and 14% of serious-injury crashes.

To address the issue, the new active transportation plan seeks to provide guidelines for designing roadways to serve bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities, while also increasing walking and biking options to major destinations in the city.

While the plan would seek to guide all future roadwork, a proposed list of 10 prioritized projects – based on community input, demands and opportunities for funding – is intended to increase focus on potential changes. Projects on the list are:

  • Elton Hills Drive from Assisi Drive Northwest to North Broadway Avenue.
  • Seventh Street Northwest and Northeast from the Douglas Trail to 11th Avenue Northeast.
  • East Center Street from Zumbro River to 15th Avenue Southeast.
  • Fourth Street Southeast from Broadway Avenue to 19th Avenue Southeast.
  • 16th Street Southwest and Southeast from Salem Road Southwest to 11th Avenue Southeast.
  • 11th Avenue Southwest and Northwest from 14th Street Northwest to Second Street Southwest.
  • 11th Avenue Northeast and Southeast from Fourth Street Southeast to 14th Street Northeast.
  • 16th Avenue Northwest connection along Cascade Creek.
  • Third Avenue Southeast from Sixth Street Southeast to Broadway Avenue.
  • 41st Street Northwest from West Circle Drive Northwest to West River Parkway Northwest.

“This is to help the city and partners to identify where to focus first, because we can’t build the entire network at once,” Harris said.
Rochester City Engineer Dillon Dombrovski said the list doesn’t seek to rank the projects or establish an order for completion, with levels of work ranging from an estimated $20,000 for 16th Avenue to $4.3 million for 16th Street.

“There are a couple on there where we have identified pavement preservation and/or street reconstruction and utility reconstruction,” he said. “Now we know we also have the priority to improve the walking and biking experience.”

If the proposed plan is approved, Dombrovski said it would guide plans for the proposed projects, which could take six to 10 years to complete.

The city’s planning and zoning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the active transportation plan, which is expected to be presented to the Rochester City Council on Oct. 17 for approval.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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