Connect the Park is the city's 10-year plan to add more sidewalks, trails, bike lanes and bikeways throughout the community. The plan was developed with community input through a process that took several years. City Council approved the plan in 2013, and work began in 2015.
Each year a number of Connect the Park projects are completed. Engineering staff use community feedback to help guide the designs of each project. Open house meetings are held to listen to resident feedback and keep residents informed.
As part of Vision St. Louis Park in 2007, the city worked with community members to create an Active Living: Sidewalks and Trails Plan. The Connect the Park initiative will work toward implementing many of the elements of the plan over the next 10 years. The estimated cost for the plan is $24 million.
- Connect the Park Map – Sidewalks, Trails and Bikeways
- Connect the Park Map – Sidewalks
- Connect the Park Map – Trails
- Connect the Park Map – Bikeways
To develop a comprehensive, city-wide system of trails and sidewalks that provides local and regional connectivity, improves safety and accessibility, and enhances overall community livability.
Goals and Objectives
- Develop an interconnected network of pedestrian and bicycle routes throughout the city and linked to transit systems, providing options to automobile dependence.
- Establish a citywide grid-system of sidewalks approximately every ¼-mile.
- Establish a citywide grid-system of bicycle facilities approximately every ½-mile.
- Close gaps in neighborhoods’ existing sidewalk networks.
- Anticipate increases in the use of mass transit, including the possibility of a much improved multi-modal system comprising buses, light rail, heavy commuter rail, local circulators, etc.
- Establish safe crossings of highways, arterial roads and rail corridors using innovative traffic calming strategies, improved traffic control systems, grade separations, etc.
- Develop safe links to schools, commercial hubs, employment centers, institutions and transit facilities.
- Develop recreational pathways that link neighborhoods to parks and natural areas, providing opportunities to improve the health and well-being of community residents and workers.
- Make connections to regional and recreational trails to link St. Louis Park to larger metropolitan open space systems and destinations.
- Provide safe and easily accessible routes for residents and workers in the community, including children, seniors and the disabled.
- Provide for walks along high traffic pedestrian and street use areas.
- Create a cohesive, well-designed system that includes a coordinated approach for signs and orientation, standard designs for street crossings and additional "user-friendly" amenities such as rest areas, information kiosks and upgraded landscaping.
- Incorporate strategies for funding, maintenance and snow removal into the overall plan.
- Develop a Capital Improvement Plan based on priorities, needs and available resources.
In general the system plan provides sidewalks approximately every ¼-mile and bikeways every ½-mile in order to improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity throughout the community. Both the system plan and the set of general criteria for prioritizing the pedestrian and bike improvements was generated through community input from a Citizen Advisory Committee, Community Meeting, 205 online survey responses, and meetings with Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, and City Council. In addition, general support for the goals has been vetted through the subsequent Plan-By-Neighborhood process, Community Survey, and Community Recreation Survey. Plan development and prioritization was tied directly to public health, safety and well-being. The system plan and goals were adopted in the Comprehensive Plan in 2009.
Rating Factors or Criteria
The logic behind prioritization and plan implementation is based on the following objectives:
- Focus on key destinations: segments that serve multiple community gathering centers in the community (schools, parks, transit stops, commercial nodes) rate higher.
- Focus on Transportation: routes that provide north-south connections through the community, into adjacent communities, and to key transit stops rate higher.
- Focus on Bicycling and Walking: the ultimate goal is to provide a quarter-mile “city” grid of sidewalks and half-mile grid of bike routes. Improvements that fill gaps in the city pedestrian and bicycle networks, improve safety at certain intersections, and provide crossings (bridges or tunnels) of major railroad and highway barriers rate higher.
Detailed design of the sidewalks, trails and bikeways is completed the year before proposed construction. The design process begins with field data collection the summer before proposed construction. This data is then analyzed and a preliminary design is created to be presented to the public at a meeting in the fall, follow up meetings are held as needed to gather input. Once a final design is ready, the individual project segments are brought to the City Council for final approval at a Public Hearing before the project is advanced to construction. Usually these public hearings are in February or March of the proposed construction year. For example, if a project is proposed for construction in 2020, the design process will begin in June of 2019, with meetings in the fall and winter, followed up by City Council approval in February or March of 2020.
When possible, these sidewalk, trail and bikeway projects are scheduled to occur with city street rehabilitation work. If the Connect the Park segment is on a street scheduled for rehabilitation, the public process will occur concurrent to the street public meetings.
Jack Sullivan, Senior Engineering Project Manager