Why One Street Safety Advocate Will Never Go to a DOT Meeting Again

Residents in Saint Paul devoted devoted hundreds of hours to developing this multi-modal plan for Snelling Avenue, only to have huge portions of it thrown out without notice or explanation. Image: Streets.mn
Residents in Saint Paul worked with Minnesota DOT to include safety improvements for biking and walking in this plan for Snelling Avenue, only to have huge portions of it thrown out without notice or explanation. Image: Streets.mn

Public meetings hosted by state DOTs can be very frustrating. People who want safer streets and take the time to attend are often deluged with highly technical excuses about why their suggestions won’t fly.

Andy Singer at Streets.mn, known for his excellent cartoon work, says he’s done for good. He’s never attending another Minnesota DOT meeting after devoting “at least 100 hours” to what was supposed to be a “multi-modal” plan for Saint Paul’s Snelling Avenue — one of the most dangerous corridors in the Twin Cities region.

Real design improvements came out of the workshops — at first. Then Singer says his faith in the process was betrayed when the state DOT ditched large portions of the plan with no explanation or notice:

A plan is a promise from a government agency that it is going to do certain things for the community. I and other community members invested thousands of hours of our time in a good-faith effort to come up with the Multi-Modal Plan. By throwing out large portions of it, MnDOT wasted our time, betrayed our trust, and wasted public money.

As they’ve been doing for over seventy years, MnDOT demonstrated that they simply don’t care about public opinion or the communities through which their enormously destructive highways pass. They constantly solicit public feedback for plans like this, or for “Minnesota Go”, or their statewide bike/pedestrian plans. In fact, it seems like their bike/ped division has done nothing for the last twenty years except draft plans that are never implemented.

We sit in rooms with facilitators and stick post-it notes on maps, or watch presentations about “how much the agency cares about our input,” and break into meaningless little discussion groups. In retrospect, it all appears to have been a waste of time, and I will never go to a meeting with MnDOT again. It’s like when politicians appoint a “Blue Ribbon Panel” and then ignore its recommendations. After a few of these, people stop participating because they realize it’s pointless.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The City Fix shares research about the effect of Bogotá’s TransMilenio BRT on public health. And Cyclelicious reports that Oklahoma is considering “Idaho Stop”-style legislation.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Paving Projects Can Also Be Street Safety Projects

|
Transportation departments tend to separate street resurfacings from street safety projects. In New York City, for example, advocates are pushing DOT to coordinate its paving and safety teams to better facilitate low-cost improvements for walking and biking. Paving and safety projects shouldn’t be in competition for resources, writes Jonathan Maus at BikePortland. Maus says his city’s transportation planners are […]

New Layer of Red Tape From FHWA Threatens to Delay NYC Bike Projects

|
The Federal Highway Administration is seeking to impose a new layer of bureaucratic review on New York City bike projects, which could significantly delay the implementation of street redesigns that have proven to reduce traffic injuries and deaths. According to a source in city government, FHWA wants the New York State DOT to review each […]

How State DOTs Waste Money Bailing Out Local Planning Mistakes

|
A few weeks ago, we featured a video of Tennessee Department of Transportation chief John Schroer describing the reforms he’s applying at his agency. One problem he pinpointed — and this happens to every state DOT — is when local governments ask his DOT to spend big sums of money fixing transportation problems that could have […]

Businesses in Groningen, the Netherlands: More Bike Traffic, Please

|
What happens when transportation planners try to accommodate cyclist traffic? If you’re in Groningen, the Netherlands, where over half of all trips are made by bike, you get complaints from business owners — who don’t want cyclists diverted from their street. David Hembrow of A View From the Cycle Path says students are flooding the Zonnelaan bike path […]

When Opaque Bikeway Planning Leads to Missed Opportunities

|
Chouteau Avenue in St. Louis is finally getting a bike lane that’s been promised since 2009. But the finished product falls far short of what it could be, writes Alex Ihnen at NextSTL. The flaws in the Chouteau redesign say a lot about the city’s haphazard approach to bike planning, Ihnen says: It appears to be city […]