A new vision for downtown
After being bounced between the street committee and the City Council a decision has finally been made on the sidewalk design for the Main Street project.
The Blue Earth City Council ultimately made the decision to include bumpouts, colored concrete, new streetlights and planters after two recommendations from the street committee.
However, it did not come without a good deal of debate from members of the council.
“The bumpout topic went back to the street committee and they are still in favor of adding bumpouts,”?city engineer Wes Brown said. “They are desired for pedestrian safety and to meet American Disabilities Act requirements.”
Mayor Rick Scholtes expressed concern about the bumpouts and how truck traffic would be able to navigate the Main Street area.
“Can the trucks drive over the bumpouts?” he asked. “If so then what is the point.”
Scholtes added that the lack of uniformity of adding bumpouts to the project area and not the rest of Main Street was a concern, as well.
Members of Blue Earth’s walkability group were present at the meeting to express their opinions on the recommendation.
“Let’s make sure you honor the work of the sub committees. I don’t feel they would come back a second time if they didn’t feel it was beneficial for Blue Earth,”?Dave Kittleson, a member of the walkability group, said.
Dar Holmseth, also a member of the group, explained the benefits of bumpouts which included additional safety for pedestrians.
“The colored concrete is beneficial, especially for elderly since color difference helps with depth perception,”?Holmseth said. “It adds safety for pedestrians since they aren’t walking as far out into the street with the bumpouts.”
She feels the bumpouts and colored concrete would not only be beneficial to the aesthetics of Blue Earth but also the people.
“I?think pedestrians get lost in the mix,”?she added.
Council member John Huisman also spoke in favor of adding bumpouts.
“I think this is a once in a generation opportunity and I would hope the recommendation of the street committee is taken seriously and we as a council can
be visionary,” he said. “We want our downtown to be a destination.?You have got to do something different. Let’s make sure we transform downtown.”
Other council members felt that the decision should ultimately come down to what the public thinks.
“We have to look at what the citizens want,”?Russ Erichsrud said. “I have talked to those who don’t want the bumpouts.”
The recommendation for bumpouts was unanimous from the street committee the first time. After that, the City Council sent it back to the committee again. Then the vote was 3-2 in favor of the bumpouts.
“I’ve talked to people who don’t understand why we need bumpouts,”?Scholtes added. “Ultimately we need to decide what’s best for our community at the end of the day.”
Council member Glen Gaylord said that although the public may not currently be in favor of the bumpouts, they may like them once they are put in.
“When we put roundabouts in, no one wanted them. After people got used to them, now they like them. I suspect they will like the bumpouts, too,”?he said.
The council cast a vote on the proposed design with four people voting in favor, including; Gaylord, Dan Brod, Huisman and Marty Cassem, and two voting against including Scholtes and Eichsrud.
Aside from the bumpouts, the design includes a variety of other streetscaping ideas which were less controversial with the City Council.
One of the ideas was to add colored concrete in crosswalks to set them apart from the street.
At the council’s work session held earlier this month, Scholtes suggested using the colored concrete crosswalks on the rest of Main Street as well to keep a uniform look with the three blocks which will be redone next summer.
The council agreed to consider trying to budget for the addition of colored concrete crosswalks past the project area.
It was also discussed that new streetlights would be added down the length of Main Street which would also add to the uniformity.
Other design aspects included adding planters on sidewalks as well as finding ways to utilize greenspace along the project.
“I?don’t want to be ordinary anymore and I don’t think the businesses want to be ordinary anymore,”?Brod said.