MnDOT collecting input on improving bicycle travel
GRANITE FALLS — Probate Judge Ole Hartwick of Yellow Medicine County clocked more than 135,000 miles pedaling his bicycle from 1895 through 1934, most often while attired in suit and tie.
Many of his trips involved a 40-mile trek from his home in Granite Falls to Canby, where he also held court.
Granite Falls was host on Wednesday to the second in a series of meetings the Minnesota Department of Transportation is conducting across the state to help decide the future of bicycling.
“What is working and what is not working” are at the heart of what the department wants to discover through the outreach meetings and a website, Greta Alquist, principal planner for MnDOT in St. Paul, told the estimated 45 to 50 people who attended the Granite Falls session.The public input will help guide MnDOT staff as they decide how best to invest state funding for bicycle and pedestrian trails, according to Antonio Rossell, director of Community Design Group, of Minneapolis, who facilitated the session.This session was held to gather input for MnDOT’s District 8, which is headquartered in Willmar and serves the 12 southwestern counties.The district receives anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000 each year in federal Transportation Alternatives Program funds. The funds must be spent in the 12 counties on projects to improve bicycle or pedestrian travel, according to Jarrett Hubbard, a planner with the Willmar district office.The district is in the unusual situation of struggling to find quality projects for the funds, according to Hubbard.The federal funds come with plenty of strings, and that deters some, he noted.The funds are meant to improve transportation, and consequently some trail projects focused entirely on recreation do not qualify.Many of the inquiries the district receives are focused on recreational uses, but there’s definitely a mix of other interests, according to Hubbard. Increasingly, people are looking to follow Ole Hartwick’s tracks. Many want to improve their ability to reach work, shopping or entertainment destinations by bicycle or foot.Participants at the Granite Falls session were asked to identify possible routes and destinations in the region. Recreational links clearly emerged as the favorites.The participants also helped identify areas where they felt improvements are needed for bicycle travel for all purposes. They offered suggestions on what could be done on busy routes in District 8 communities — such as First Street South in Willmar — that can be difficult to cross due to heavy motor vehicle traffic.There’s an ongoing opportunity to participate in the process and learning about it by visiting: www.mndot.gov/bike