Residents can voice opinions on bike lane Mon.

Published 2:57 pm Saturday, June 26, 2010

Albert Lea residents will have the chance to voice their opinions on Monday about what could be the city’s first bike lane, which is proposed for a 1.5-mile stretch on Front Street.

The project proposes to install bike lanes from U.S. Highway 69 to Frank Avenue, where the bike route would connect to the Blazing Star shared user trail.

The biggest issue of the project is whether the benefits of a bike lane would outweigh the loss of parking and annual cost of paint that are involved.

Email newsletter signup

During the preagenda workshop on Thursday, Chris Lowe, of the city engineering department, gave a presentation to the City Council about the project.

City Manager Jim Norman and Mayor Mike Murtaugh were at a conference out of town.

Lowe said the idea of a bike lane came about during the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project.

A walkability study by Dan Burden, which promotes natural modes of transportation, was adopted into the comprehensive plan, with the goal developed to see an integrated network of bike lanes, shared user trails and sidewalks, he said.

In September 2009, the council adopted a complete streets ordinance, which also looks at other modes of transportation.

Later in 2009, the city received a formal request from representatives of the Blue Zones biking initiative to consider bike lanes along Front Street, Lowe said.

He pointed out benefits of bike lanes include promoting healthy lifestyles, promoting bicycling as a means of transportation, increased safety for bicyclists, traffic calming, and the reduction of pedestrian and bicycle conflicts on sidewalks.

On the other hand, some disadvantages include the initial cost, which is estimated to be about $47,000. Also, there are annual maintenance costs of $15,000 to $20,000 per year for paint striping.

Changes to parking would include no parking from Highway 69 to First Avenue, parking on only the north side from First Avenue to Washington Avenue, and no parking from Washington Avenue to Frank Avenue, Lowe said. School buses would be allowed to park only during loading and unloading of students near Sibley Elementary and Southwest Middle School.

After the presentation, Councilor Larry Anderson voiced his opinion about using a shared user path instead, which would be safer for people and get people up off the road.

In a shared user path, which is 8- to 10-feet wide, walkers, people with strollers, motorized wheelchairs, bicyclists and even roller-bladers would share the path.

Shared user paths do not require striping or additional signs.

Anderson also said he also thinks the council needs to respect businesses that may utilize parking on the street.

After the Monday public hearing, there will be other neighborhood meetings planned.

In the interest of having public input, staff are recommending to hold the actual vote on the issue until the July 12 meeting, according to background information.

In other action, the council will:

Vote whether to award the sale of general obligation permanent-improvement revolving fund bonds and refunding bonds in the amount of $3.28 million.

These bonds include $2.6 million for ongoing assessable improvement projects, including street and utilities on 777th Avenue, overlay projects, utilities on 770th Avenue and U.S. Highway 69, and the Willamor Road reconstruction.

It also includes $660,000 that will refund the city for a prior bond series in 2001, and ultimately save money.

Vote whether to award the sale of general obligation water revenue refunding bonds in the amount of $1.085 million.

Vote whether to reduce the non-resident fee for tornado and storm victims, who wish to dispose of material at the Albert Lea Transfer Station. The current nonresident fee is $10 per pickup load of clean fill (which includes branches and brush) and $5 per pickup load for residents.

The request came during recent storm response briefings during the past week.

Have a public hearing about a proposed order for removal of 1021 S. Fourth Ave.

The property was placarded as unfit for human occupancy on June 17, 2009.

The owner of the property is listed as Maria A. Juarez, 718 Water St.

If the order is approved, the owner will have 20 days to take corrective action on the matter. If corrective action is not taken, a motion for the enforcement of the order will be made to the Freeborn County District Court.

If the city has to demolish the structure, all costs to do so would be accessed against the property.

Vote whether to approve the annexation of a small sliver of property at 1807 Johnson St., in Lot 5 of Webber’s Subdivision.

The property has been completely surrounded by the city limits for many years.

Vote whether to approve an amendment to the conditional use permit at St. John’s Lutheran Home.

The amendment is to allow a third garage to be built onto the existing garage, at the northeast corner near Luther Place.

The Albert Lea Planning Commission recommended approval of the amendment with the condition that the garage be modified by adding brick at the corners, installing a pedestrian door and installing windows along the east side, according to background information provided by city staff.

Vote on appointing election judges for the primary election on Aug. 10.

Vote on the compensation for election judges and the designation of the polling places.

Minnesota Statute requires election judges receive at least the state’s minimum wage and mileage reimbursement for judges who travel to and from polling places to deliver election supplies.

Staff are recommending $7.25 an hour for election judges, $9 an hour for assistant chief judges and $10 an hour for chief judges.

Polling places up for vote are Brookside Education Center, First Baptist Church, United Methodist Church, Grace Lutheran Church, City Center and Halverson School.

Vote whether to approve an administrative survey for the Albert Lea Port Authority to divide a lot at the southwest corner of the new south industrial park off of Fourteenth Street.