As the Destination Medical Center Corp. board prepares to identify its preferred route for a downtown circulator, Olmsted County commissioners voiced concern this week about the process.
“It’s going to put the (Rochester) City Council against the residents,” County Commissioner Mark Thein said of a proposal to dedicate two traffic lanes on 10 blocks of South Broadway Avenue.
While the proposed commuter route along Second Street Southwest has long been identified as the preferred choice to serve the DMC district and connect a pair of transit hubs, the DMCC board and City Council are being asked to choose a north-south route.
City and DMC Economic Development Authority staff are recommending using Broadway to connect Second Street with a transit hub in the Graham Park area, which could include the former Seneca Foods site.
Commissioners, however, questioned the potential impact of committing two lanes of traffic to a planned rapid-transit system, which would have specialized buses spaced every 10 minutes during peak periods.
Thein and other commissioners questioned whether traffic patterns would shift, creating added congestion on Third Avenue to bypass the lane reduction on Broadway.
Mona Elabbady, a project manager with SRF Consulting, said additional study on such impacts will come after the preferred route is identified to start the process for seeking federal funding.
“I understand it seems a little backwards,” she told commissioners, noting the completed funding application isn’t due until September.
“Over the next year or so, those details will be figured out,” she added.
Rochester Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said the preferred route needs to be identified within a month to stay on track with the plan to seek federal funds for half the project’s cost. He said narrowing the potential route option will allow the city to hire a specialized engineering team to work on the project.
If federal funding is approved with the first application, the circulator and transit hubs are expected to be in place in early 2025.
The DMCC board is slated to hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. Friday in suite 101 of the Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive SE.
County Board Chairman Jim Bier, who sits on the DMCC board, said he plans to take this fellow commissioners’ concerns to the board on Friday but noted there is a desire to move forward as quickly as possible.
Additionally, he said much of the effort remains in flux and could change as more study is completed.
“It’s not to say it’s going to end up on Broadway, but that’s the first pass,” he said.
“It can change,” he added. “It will change. It would be highly unusual that what’s presented here is what will happen.”
The City Council could vote on a preferred route during its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.