Archived Story

Editorial: Broadway street work must happen

Published 9:54am Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It seems there are quite a number of people who would like to freeze Albert Lea in time and never let it change. Why is that? Perhaps it’s just part of being Minnesotans. We are nice, but we are stubborn, too.

That can be good because it means we are pragmatic and interested in civic affairs.

The downtown streetscape project provides a prime example. Some people feel it is unnecessary and want to keep the downtown exactly as it is for perpetuity.

Their input is valuable, but it often seems they don’t understand the reason the city is wanting to upgrade the downtown is that it has to rebuild the sewer and water lines beneath the street anyway. It is going to tear up streets, curbs and sidewalks. It doesn’t have much choice in the matter unless it wants to forego its duty to maintain infrastructure.

That means if the city is ever going to remake its streetscape, the most economically sound time to do it is now. Otherwise, the city will have to wait about 75 years for another opportunity.

Moreover, the city already has acquired $1 million from the state in bonding funds to offset some of the cost of the downtown work.

It’s not a matter of whether the city should do construction on the downtown. That needs to happen. It’s a matter of what the city should do. Should it spend the reconstruction funds to remake the downtown exactly as it is? Or should it consider remaking the downtown to look more with the times?

The feedback on the bumpouts has been good, but keep in mind they are just one aspect of the downtown debate. Whether people like the bumpouts or not, some kind of new streetscape will be constructed. Either route on bumpouts is fine. However, consider that bumpouts will cost less than new stoplights and traffic levels don’t warrant stoplights. Bumpouts are safer than crossing from the existing corners. They allow pedestrians to have a shorter crossing. Drivers can see walkers easier, and they likewise can see drivers better.

It’s not hard to peg how vocal naysayers will view matters in Albert Lea. They come out against change. Period. But leaders soliciting public opinion also need to consider what’s right because often the vocal naysayers aren’t seeing a fiscally prudent path for the long term or are framing one isolated aspect of a debate, rather than the whole ball of wax.

The prudent path is the downtown ought to get a new streetscape at the same time as the city has to reconstruct the underside of Broadway Avenue.