Today on Streets.mn: Minneapolis Accepts an Offer it Can't Refuse

[Fredo "Lake Street" Corleone goes fishing.]
South Minneapolis needs another new freeway onramp like Justin Morneau needs a blow to the head. It's like building more shipping canals in New Orleans...

But it's going to happen anyway. I wrote a new post over at Streets.mn today about the "35-W Access Project" at Lake and 1st, which was recently approved by the Minneapolis Transportation and Public Works Committee. The project is half-good or half-bad, depending on how you look at it. Mostly, it really makes you wish for some state transportation efforts that would make one really, truly, completely happy.

Pondering the vote made me think about some of the lessons you might draw from a project like this. The most important one revolves around negativity, that cities main point of leverage is the ability to say "no" to state and federal transportation agencies. In the end, it's not much of a lever. Here's the main point from the article, entitled "Three Lessons from Minneapolis' Pyrrhic Victory on Lake Street" (check out the meta quoting):
Minneapolis, on the other hand, has a bit more leverage. As a large, politically connected city, they have a bit more room to negotiate with state and federal transportation agencies. Still, the fact remains that the main way cities can affect transportation planning is by being negative, by saying “no” to a freeway or saying “no” to a project. It drastically limits urban possibilities.
For example, Minneapolis has lots of good transportation ideas. I’m sure that if offered $10M in a federal earmark for transportation improvements for Lake Street, Councilmember Lilligren would be thrilled. Cities are overflowing with great ideas that need funding. See for example, their suggestion at the end of this week’s resolution:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Minneapolis commits to collaborating with Hennepin County, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and Metro Transit to develop and deliver related improvements in South Minneapolis neighborhoods, such as traffic calming measures, including the potential conversion of one-­way streets to two-­way streets; and enhancements to the transit rider experience, including potential improvements to transit shelters in the area as soon as possible.
As it is, these kinds of projects are rarely get outside money. All Minneapolis can do is to say “No”, and hold out for a better offer. Meanwhile, federal freeway dollars hang overhead like a zepplin.
I was trying to think of good metaphors that really captured the relationship between cities and state / federal DOTs. The best I could come up with was a sane person in a old-school psych ward. I imagine Minneapolis as a quirky patient who ended up there, surrounded by stoic doctors and electroshock machines. Kind of like whats-her-name (not Angelina) in Girl Interrupted, pleading to be released, but becoming gradually destabilized by her treatments until she barely knows who she is any more.
What Minneapolis really needs is a different treatment regime, something involving massage and better nutrition. The highly invasive freeway regimen hasn't done much good.
[That's not Minneapolis, that's Winona.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What Minneapolis really needs is a way to get onto northbound 35W from Lake Street. Hopefully the city council-approved plan accomplishes that.