City Council orders study on bike lane for Front Street

Published 12:50 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The first community bicycle lane in Albert Lea is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Albert Lea City Council on Monday ordered a report looking into the feasibility of a lane on Front Street.

The report will reveal the pros and cons of doing the project along that street, along with identifying potential obstacles that would have to be overcome for it to come to fruition. After council members receive the report, they will then vote whether to approve the installation.

The idea for the bicycle lane came at the request of the biking committee formed as part of the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project and Blue Zones sustainability efforts.

Email newsletter signup

Members of the committee met with City Engineer Steven Jahnke to discuss whether there’s a street where there could potentially be bike lanes on both sides of the street.

Albert Lea City Manager Victoria Simonsen said the group looked at three or four different options of what could be successful, but in the end they decided to focus on Front Street. There have also been several public meetings during which bicyclists have come in and talked about locations that are most important for getting a safe trail.

If the project comes to fruition, the bike lanes would go from the shared user trail of the Blazing Star Landing near the intersection of Front Street and Frank Avenue and go west to U.S. Highway 69. It could potentially connect to the Albert Lea Family Y and Wedgewood Cove at a later time.

Third Ward City Councilor Ellen Kehr said she thinks the residents of Albert Lea have clearly indicated their commitment to the city’s natural resources and how that affects quality of life.

“I feel that it’s important we continue with careful and thoughtful planning so we can bring all of these resources to the heart of our community and better increase our quality of life,” Kehr said.

During the first part of the year, transportation expert Dan Burden conducted a report about the walkability and bikeability of Albert Lea.

The idea to add a bicycle lanes in the city follows the recommendations of transportation expert Dan Burden, who earlier this year conducted a report about the walkability of Albert Lea.

Among several suggestions in his report, Burden concluded Albert Lea needs to identify places for bike lanes, fill gaps in the trail system and fill sidewalk gaps.

When the results of that report were released, Albert Leans interested in biking identified Front Street, Bridge Avenue, South Shore Drive, Newton Avenue and Fountain Street as streets they felt deserved bike lanes.

In other action, the council:

Heard an update from Jahnke regarding the Inflow and Infiltration Project in the city. Look to Wednesday’s Tribune for more on this presentation.

Voted to reduce the newly adopted pyrotechnic display fee from $500 to $250 for Melrose Pyrotechnics, the provider of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Fourth of July fireworks. The rate will only be good for this year.

Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Director Randy Kehr made the request, noting that the fee increased from $25 last year to $500 this year. This is the highest fee the company has had to pay in a city, he said.

He recognized that the event requires additional fire and police officials to be on hand, but he said he thought it would be nice to thank the fireworks company for their years of service by taking the fee up on a gradual scale instead of all at once. The company’s leaders do recognize that fees will be going up everywhere, he said.

Simonsen said the council looked at a variety of fees this year, in anticipation of an unallotment of state funds.

The fireworks event is a pretty high-risk event, she said, and it brings out many people to the community. While it requires additional fire and police officials, the event also requires additional street sweeping at the end of the night.

“It certainly costs us well beyond $500 that night,” she said.

That was the reasoning the fee saw such an increase, she said.

Councilors Al Brooks and Reid Olson voted against the reduction.

Heard no public comment during a public hearing about the construction of a 14-inch sanitary sewer force main from the Bay Oaks area to the intersection of West Edgewater Drive and former Highway 101 during a public hearing. This will be the location of a future sanitary sewer lift station, which will service the Manchester area, Stables area and Plaza street.

In March of 2008, the council authorized a connection agreement with Manchester, as a means of wastewater collection and treatment.

If the connection happens, the city will receive about $1,500 a month in new revenue for providing wastewater collection services.

Authorized a sanitary sewer maintenance agreement with Manchester.

The agreement pertained to a connection of Manchester’s sanitary sewer system to Albert Lea’s system.

Had the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would adopt the current version of the Minnesota State Fire Code. If approved, this will allow the city to continue local enforcement of fire safety standards and requirements.

Had the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would repeal Chapter 62-148 of the city code regarding bicycle registration. The registration has not been implemented for several years, and the state law regarding it has been repealed.

Approved a request from the Shell Rock River Watershed District to have services of a police officer during the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts summer tour scheduled for Friday.

There will be three Charter buses making stops at the South Industrial Park mitigation project. Each stop will be about 30 minutes.

Councilor Larry Anderson said there will be approximately 200 people in attendance for the event.

Approved a request from the Parks and Recreation Department to have a bonfire at City Beach on July 24 in conjunction with a beach luau.

Approved a request from the Sunset Saddle Club to allow noise to extend past 11 p.m. on July 24 and Aug. 28 at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.

Simonsen said the group will probably only run a few minutes over the 11 p.m. limit, but wanted it publicly acknowledged just in case.

Approved a request to use the city water tower parking lot behind the American Legion from 4 to 8 p.m. on June 27 for activities in conjunction with a benefit for the Rick Kelly family.

Approved a request from Youth for Christ to use the Sondergard playpark building for kid’s club activities every Thursdays through the summer from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Approved a neighborhood party with a DJ at 204 North Shore Ave. from 8 to 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 1.

The original request asked for the DJ to go until midnight; however, it was city staff’s recommendation to go to 10:30 p.m. instead. The same event was held last year, and police received two complaints they had to respond to, Simonsen said.