Fridley council approves ‘Safe Route To School’ plan

The Fridley City Council approved a Safe Route To School plan during the June 26 meeting and will use the plans as a guide for Fridley’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

The purpose of the Safe Route To School plan is to address public safety issues and encourage biking and walking to school. Stevenson Elementary School, Hayes Elementary School and Fridley Middle School are all included in the proposal.

“By doing so we are looking at some infrastructure improvements in the future and we want to clarify what parts of these improvements are the responsibility of the school district and what parts are the responsibility of the city and the plan does that,” said Fridley Planning Manager Julie Jones. “We really need these plans to qualify for future safe routes to schools infrastructure funding.”

In the past, the city and school district have applied for several infrastructure grants but have not received funding because they did not have a plan.

A task force was developed of community representatives including city staff, County staff, District 14 staff and the Fridley Police department to develop the Safe Route To School plans.

Two consulting companies were also hired by MnDOT to help oversee the project.

The Fridley School District Board approved three draft plans during its May 16 meeting.

“To finish this is a part of a task for updating our 2040 Comprehensive Plan because we do have goals in our current comprehensive plan for our Safe Routes To School issues,” said Jones.

On June 16, public input was sought out and several city departments partnered to host an evening event in the street. The engineering staff created a visual display of the various options on the street surfaces, so people could physically walk each option. Every attendee voted on their preference.

Even children who were old enough were asked to do an exercise where they designed their ideal street with magnetic figures on a board. Every attendee voted.

Public input results

According to the city, the results of the opinion boards were very clear. Of the 37 adults who voted, only about three voted to keep 7th Street as it is. The vast majority voted for the design option that kept a parking lane on both sides but extended the existing sidewalk from 5 feet to 10 feet wide.

On the segment between 59th Avenue to Medtronic Parkway, 81 percent of people voted to remove the east side parking lane and construct a 10 foot wide raised trail in its place.

“It would be a multi-use trail that walkers and bikers would use together,” said Jones.

On the segment between Medtronic Parkway to 53rd Avenue, 72 percent of people voted to remove the east side parking lane and construct a 10 foot wide raised trail in its place.

“And we had a few people voting on the other options which involved putting the bike lane on the street,” said Jones.
The need to connect to shopping on 57th Avenue was also desired by voters.

While this level of detail is not in the SRTS Middle School plan, the feedback received at the public input event confirms that the neighborhood does not want to leave 7th Street as is but want improvements for a grade separated path.

“Of courses this is just a guide,” said Jones. “These plans will serve as a guide to the city and the school district to pursue funding. There is no guarantee that funding will be found for every project listed on this plan or any of them for that matter.”

Fridley Mayor Scott Lund also added that the Safe Route To School program is used as a funding mechanism and that everyone in the community is encouraged to use the trails.

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