In the electric tram

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Tram and Rail, 1914

The New York Review of Books has published a new edition of Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories, and they’re posting excerpts on their blog to promote it.  Here’s an excerpt of their excerpt of a story called “In the Electric Tram.”

People do, after all, tend to get somewhat bored on such trips, which often require twenty or thirty minutes or even more, and what do you do to provide yourself with some modicum of entertainment? You look straight ahead. To show by one’s gaze and gestures that one is finding things a bit tedious fills a person with a quite peculiar pleasure. Now you return to studying the face of the conductor on duty, and now you content yourself once more with merely, vacantly staring straight ahead. Isn’t that nice? One thing and then another? I must confess: I have achieved a certain technical mastery in the art of staring straight ahead.

It is prohibited for the conductor to converse with the esteemed passengers. But what if prohibitions are sidestepped, laws violated, admonitions of so refined and humane a nature disregarded? This happens fairly often. Chatting with the conductor offers prospects of the most charming recreation, and I am particularly adept at seizing opportunities to engage in the most amusing and profitable conversations with this tramway employee. It pays to ignore certain regulations, and summoning one’s powers to render uniforms loquacious helps create a convivial mood.

From time to time you do nonetheless look straight ahead again. After completing this straightforward exercise, you may permit your eyes a modest excursion. Your gaze sweeps through the interior of the car, crossing fat, drooping mustaches, the face of a weary, elderly woman, a pair of youthfully mischievous eyes belonging to a girl, until you’ve had your fill of these studies in the quotidian and gradually begin to observe your own footgear, which could use proper mending. And always new stations are arriving, new streets, and the journey takes you past squares and bridges, past the war ministry and the department store, and all this while it is continuing to rain, and you continue to behave as if you were a tad bored, and you continue to find this conduct the most suitable.

But it might also be that while you were riding along like that, you heard or saw something beautiful, gay, or sad, something you will never forget.

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Traveling in Moderation: Grand Marais

The New Highway #61, Clement Haupers, 1939

Clement Haupers was the Minnesota director of the Federal Art Project for the WPA, so it’s relatively safe to assume he meant this painting as a sincere celebration of the new roads – Highway 61 was among the earliest – that were being built to link the people of the vast American landscape by motorcar.  I gotta say, 72 years later it looks to me like a silly cartoon, bathing a banal piece of infrastructure in golden grandeur, but that may partly be from seven decades of grime, smoke and congestion accumulating on what Haupers depicted as a clean, clear silver strip.

Haupers seems to have ranged around the state quite a bit as Federal Art Project director, and there are few clues in the watercolor above as to what segment of Highway 61 is depicted.  Except for the suggestions of an agricultural quilt along the roadside, the hilliness of the gleaming highway in the landscape could be found along the north shore, where Highway 61 was constructed as North Shore Drive in the 1920s.

Where do you turn? Marohn's shot of Grand Marais' edge

The current iteration of North Shore Drive (though the name seems to have fallen out of use) as it passes through Grand Marais was justifiably excoriated by Charles Marohn at Strong Towns a few months ago.  Though mercifully not a 4-lane divided monstrosity, 61 displays a lot of highway strip tendencies, and features the suicide center lane on the edges of town to accommodate driveways encroaching into pedestrian space.  Bafflingly, the center left turn lane extends for long segments where no businesses exist, leading to a wide-feeling, speed-inducing road.

Highway 61 near the center of Grand Marais (by Charles Marohn again)

Marohn’s main point as I interpret it is that Highway 61, like most roads built today, does a poor job of differentiating between rural areas, where transportation is usually the primary function of the facility, and town areas, where the function is more multifaceted.  Highway 61 in Grand Marais is certainly guilty as charged, with the section running through town barely narrower than the strip at the edge.  Yet somehow it works better than any other street I’ve seen in Minnesota.  Motorists rarely fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks, which are marked and spaced around 350 feet apart.

I think this is mostly due to the special nature of the place rather than the design of the road.  For one thing, you arrive at Grand Marais about 80 miles down Highway 61 from the last real town, Two Harbors.  Everything between is more of a crossroads, so when you hit a place with side streets, you notice even before you hit the stop light.  But just because motorists know people live in a place doesn’t mean they’re going to slow down for them, much less stop to yield.  I think what is unique about Grand Marais is that many or most of the motorists are tourists themselves, and therefore less likely to be in a hurry.

Highway 61 in Grand Marais is rare for Minnesotan roads in that it was sliced through the originally platted grid at an angle some decades after the town was founded.  Except for the interstates, I can’t think of another Minnesotan town that experienced this sort of transportation-based renewal.  Here is a poorly-scanned bird’s eye view drawn in 1906:

A perfect grid

This photo, which lakesnwoods.com dates to the 1910s, shows no oblique intersection where North Shore Drive would slash through a few years later:

Where is the Drive?

The above photo also shows how sparsely built Grand Marais still was at that time.  When the diagonal Highway 61 was sliced through a few years later, it’s possible no building even stood in its path.  By 1934 there’s a bright white gash through the town, which today is lined with businesses such as Hughie’s Tacos, which occupies a building oriented to the street, and Dairy Queen, which is floating free in a featureless parking plane, so you get the sense the building is oriented to the main grid of the town only coincidentally.

Despite being lined with businesses, it would be a mistake to think of Highway 61 as Grand Marais’ Main Drag.  That function is filled by the traitorously-named southernmost parallel in the grid, Wisconsin St, and its perpendicular, Broadway (even the dwellers of this remote northern outpost were sophisticated enough to realize that the street type of the latter is embedded in its name).

Good fishing here

Wisconsin St is quite the contrast to Highway 61.  Grand Marais certainly fits Nathan Lewis’ bill of hypertrophism, but Wisconsin is surprisingly narrow for its late 19th century vintage.  It’s also been done up into a pleasantly calm street, with bike lanes, generous bump-outs and some weird fake stone-looking concrete.  While the earliest map of the area showed a shore-running road (that being the only road), maps from the time of platting show the road along the North Shore bypassing the town on the north side about where County Road 7 runs today.  However, as old timers will tell you, the real highway to this fishing village is the lake itself, whence trawlers of yore would return laden with whitefish, or come winter sleds towed by teams of dogs would arrive bursting with precious mail from outside.  So you can see why Wisconsin St, which connects the town’s two bays, would be important.

Guess they took this the one day no one was out walking

Today Wisconsin St is instead busy with tourists bursting with pizza or laden with souvenir tees.  The view, the crowd, and the street design combine to create an ideal strolling track, which pedestrians enjoy and vehicles respect.  Since most motorists on Wisconsin are looking for parking, the average speed is very low, and considering I can’t remember ever seeing anyone cycling on Wisconsin, the bike lanes could probably be traded for wider sidewalks.  Still, it’s nice seeing an outstate commitment to bicycling, and I think this might technically be part of the Gitchi-Gami Trail.

Wisconsin St, Broadway (which is almost as good as Wisconsin but gets demerits for slant parking), and Highway 61 combine to define a rich downtown district, with two groceries, a hardware store, a muni liquor, a Radio Shack, a Ben Franklin, two parks, a rose garden, a library, city hall, and the World’s Best Donuts.  Not bad for a town of 1,300 people, in a county of 5,000.  Presumably the tourist dollar accounts for the outsized economy, as well as the low-key, bizarrely respectful drivers.  On the other hand, maybe the thing that has such a calming effect on the tourists does the same for locals.  After all, it’s not so hard to wait for an old lady to cross the street if you get to watch the stunning Lake Superior while you wait.  Slow, safe speeds feel natural when you spend your spare time skiing the slopes of Pincushion Mountain.

Or maybe the good people of Grand Marais are just unusually respectful of the art of driving.  They do, after all, have a plaque in their town memorializing Charles Babcock, the Father of Minnesota Highways:

That's Babcock's plaque under the plywood portaging voyageur

Thanks to Sarah and other descendents of Hungry Jack Scott to whose generosity I owe the delightful strips of my life that have been spent in the beautiful town of Grand Marais.

Jim Lovell visits Planet Woonerf, doesn’t get it

Moonwalk carefully

If there was a prize for most American American, Tom Hanks would be a serious contender.  He’s not big but not skinny, nice but not too nice, and his accent sounds like it could be from anywhere.

Most American of all, he’s baffled by the foreign practice of asking drivers to be aware that children may be playing on some streets.  And as nature takes its course, his confusion turns to mockery of the idea that motorists’ right to drive where they want and as fast as they want be curtailed by children playing in the street.

A few weeks ago Hanks told David Letterman about his visit to the backwards Communist settlement of Eisenhuettenstadt.  Hanks was entertained by the poverty of the city – apparently the stupid reds thought they could build an entire city around processing raw materials.

Dresden, 1945 - why won't they get off their lazy butts and paint the dang house?

Gleeful about the poverty of the commies, Hanks pointed out that when Eisenhuettenstadt was built in the 1950s, they couldn’t afford to paint all the buildings.  Apparently acting in movies like Saving Private Ryan was exceptionally cathartic for Hanks, as he appears to have forgotten about World War II, and how at the end of it most of Germany was a smoldering pile of rubble.

But Tom Hanks saved his payload of scorn for a simple blue sign, showing a car waiting while a family plays in front of their home.  Any man who lives free would be confused by the model Soviet city of Eisenhuettenstadt, with its state-guaranteed employment, nonexistent homelessness and buildings more than 35′ tall, but the notion that a motorist should yield to a child playing in the street?  Hanks has no idea what to make of it, so he sets his phasers on mock, eventually concluding that in the land of the German Shepherd, dogs were verboten.

Hey! What the heck is that? Git off the dang roof!

Well I can’t be mad at Tom for this – he was just too good in Joe Versus the Volcano.  Can someone direct him to wikipedia’s Living Streets page, which lists variants of the sign and the concept of traffic calming in 11 countries?  Too bad there isn’t a word for Living Streets in American.

Some website claims this is Tom Hanks' house. If that's true, he has a terrible Walkscore. But hey, if I was Tom Hanks I would get tired of people pestering me about being Tom Hanks all the time, so I'd probably move to a hillside surrounded by other celebrities too.

Wikipedia: blame definition: to find fault with.

Downtown 2025: The Future is Now

King of the Urbanists Steve Berg has written the Mother of Downtown Plans, which was released last week to much copying of press release in the local media.  In this plan Berg has given us the answer to why his summer break from MinnPost turned into a forever break – the plan is an intimidating 111 pages that comprise a whopping 329 MB pdf!  Most of the pages are a disjointed but pleasant collection of HD images, so the plan ends up being a pretty quick read.  David Levinson has snarky comments on all 10 initiatives recommended in the plan, but I’m going to hold it to four.

In the future we will all be tube men

Double Downtown’s Residential Population

Sounds impressive, but Downtown is already on the way to doubling its population.  By my count, Downtown added around 5,000 units in the last decade – the DTC says 15,000 units will need to be constructed in the next 15 years to achieve a doubling of population, which would require doubling the rate of construction.  That doubling seems to be in the works, though, since around 2,000 units have been proposed or are currently under construction Downtown.

The 15,000 units needed to double Downtown’s population are “the equivalent of three large residential towers each year”, according to the plan.  But it could also take the form of low-rise buildings like the 6-story stick-built ones currently proposed in several places Downtown.  At the average unit density of recent low-rise proposals (120 units/acre), 15,000 units could fit on only 125 acres.  My long-languishing Potential Population Project found 150 acres with a high potential for development in just half of Downtown, which was as far as I got before I flaked out on the project.  So it seems likely that most developers will opt for the cheaper type of development, which is fine as long as they don’t skimp on soundproofing.

The ambitious part of this initiative is to achieve an occupancy per unit of 2.33 persons (a 35,000 person increase in population from adding 15,000 units).  That’s a lot higher than the current average household size Downtown and would require a lot more 3 bedroom units than Downtown currently has.  The plan calls for a school to be built to attract families, which seems logical, but I’m not sure developers will follow the cue.  My guess is that for larger bedroom sizes to be built, there has to be a policy incentive or direct subsidies – not surprising that the plan didn’t call for those.

Curbless Mall and Gateway Park Expansions

The issue of Downtown park development is near and dear to my heart – the Nicollet Hotel Block in particular has been a favorite of mine for years – but it’s a bit too big for this post so I’m gonna hold off for now.  I’ll only address the park expansion part of the Plan as it relates to the concept proposed for Nicollet Mall.

The Mall of All I Survey

Their concept kicks off with a map showing how the Mall will annex territory north and south, becoming the imperial capital of colonies stretching from the Sculpture Garden to the Mississippi.  There’s nothing particularly controversial about that – that was basically the idea behind the Loring Greenway – but the Plan doesn’t specify how it will leap the hurdles that prevented a Greater Mall in the past.  The first and foremost hurdle is the nightmare that is the Bottleneck – it’s tough to create a unified pedestrian corridor with a giant concrete trench running through it (a similar but lower hurdle is on the north end at Washington Ave).

But on another level, maybe a bigger problem with the concept is the scale – their proposed corridor is almost 2 miles.  Considering the differing environments of the various segments of their proposed corridors (I can think of three environments for four segments – 1. Sculpture Garden and Loring Park are Parkland 2. Loring Greenway is Residential Pedestrian Mall 3. Nicollet Mall is Commercial Transit Mall 4. Gateway Park Expansion is Parkland) it makes more sense to think of Nicollet Mall as a centerpiece of a branded pedestrian network.  Think of it as a network of Street-level Skyways, or Groundways.  The advantage to this strategy is that if anyone ever wants to improve the pedestrian realm of a block that’s not on the Downtown Council’s corridor, there will be policy support for it.

Whatever form it takes, I really like the idea of a curbless mall.  Nicollet is really more of a transit or taxi mall as it stands, with prime real estate effectively off-limits to pedestrians due to the curb barrier.  As sidewalk cafes get wider and wider, pedestrian space is shrinking, for example at Zelo, where there’s maybe 5 feet between the tables and the light poles.  You can imagine how that can get uncomfortable when there’s a convention of biker twins in town.  It would be nice to just look back to see if a bus is coming and step over if there isn’t.  Alternately, all the buses could play obnoxious chirpy music constantly.

Frequent and Free Downtown Circulator

Maybe I’m misunderstanding the plan, but it seems to me that the Downtown Circulator is the one purely terrible idea here.  So you want a vibrant street scene and robust transit options, but you want to provide a vehicle that is faster and easier than walking and sucks funding away from regular transit routes?  I guess it makes sense if the circulator goes to more outlying destinations, but even in those cases it seems to be duplicating service.  I’m not sure that fares are high enough that they are a deterrent for tourists considering transit.

The Free Ride buses seem like a reasonable compromise.  It costs nothing to run them, for one thing, since they’re a part of regular routes.  They look like regular buses, so they’re confusing enough that they’re less competitive with the simple act of walking.  The plan calls for features on the Downtown Circulator – “wide doors, roll-on features and zero emissions” –  that should be extended to all local buses anyway.  Adding Free Ride segments on Hennepin (using the 6?) and on 7th & 8th (using the 5?) would a accomplish everything that a Circulator would, without the drain on transit funds.

Most controversial element: demolishing a parking ramp

10th Avenue Freeze Out

Seems like the whole world walking pretty

And you can’t find the room to move

Well everybody better move over, that’s all

-The Boss

There’s a road over there on the north end of Downtown, or maybe on the south end of the Northside.  Nobody very much goes there, unless they’re looking for some vintage clothes, or maybe some cheap hand-me-downs from Target.  Unless your office is on this street, you poor souls walk this road every day.

Typical 10th Ave N

On one of those walks I saw a machine running towards me.  It was a truck like a mountain, piled high with teenagers looking bored.  This machine was painting lines on the street, turning it from a dusty speedway into something a little more like home, something you can live on.

Another day another dollup

Except that at first the bike lanes were more like something you can park on.  Then about a month after the painting truck came through, a crew came along to change the signs.  It didn’t change much for one stubborn guy though, who still parks in front of his house every morning, even though there’s a place for him not in a bike lane just around the corner.

So now it seems the whole street’s biking pretty.  But I still can’t find the room to walk.  They even got little pictures of bikes on one section of pavement.  Not 10 yards away, a busy crosswalk is just a worn spot on the pavement.  No zebra.  No stop line.  This in the city whose policy is to always mark crosswalks at signalized intersections.

Stop me if you've heard this before

A few steps down, 10th Avenue gets between an office building and its parking lot.  Each morning and night you can see people running across, hurrying even if they’d rather take it slow.  Some of us like to dream about marked crossings even when there’s no light, but for now the city just says no.

Portland would mark it

Not long after that, the sidewalk ends.  This end doesn’t whimper, it explodes with weeds as tall as trees and sand dunes that sweat you like the sahara.

Here's where that crossing would have come in handy

Money comes up from Washington looking for people who move without motors, but it seems you still need a machine to get it.  Out of millions of dollars, all but a few pennies went to bikes.  The night is bright, but the sidewalk’s dark, and maybe one of these days the city’s gonna get the picture.

Kvetchgiving on Nicollet Mall

In the interest of furthering my life’s work making mountains out of molehills, I’m going to complain a moment about the annual Thanksgiving Switcheroo on Nicollet Mall.  Every Thanksgiving from 6-10 in the evening, cars are allowed to, as the City puts it, “enjoy a drive along Nicollet Mall… For this special occasion, the speed limit is 10 miles-per-hour and drivers are not allowed to pass another vehicle or stop anywhere along the Mall. If you want to take the drive, you must enter and exit Nicollet Mall either at Washington Avenue or Grant Street.”  What they don’t mention is that buses are detoured to Hennepin while cars are granted their annual pleasure.

I took a stroll down Nicollet at about 9pm and counted 47 cars a-cruising, not counting a handful of unpatronized taxis.  Typically, you’d see one to three cars lined up at a red light.  The cars had higher than average occupancy, so I’d guess that during my 15 minute jaunt, there were around 130 souls motoring on what was normally un-motorable.  Not counting those already lined up in front of Target, I’d say about the same number were ambulating the Mall with me from 13th to Washington, although I wasn’t specifically counting pedestrians.

This might be a nice moment to rant about arbitrarily detouring transit at the pleasure and convenience of motorists.  Think about how often you’ve seen a portion of a street closed for construction, and some room is found for bidirectional general traffic lanes, but the bike lane is closed.  But I’ll save that rant for later.

It just doesn’t really matter that much that the buses are detoured.  Traffic of all types is very low tonight – in the four hours of the Switcheroo, about 85 buses were detoured.  Likely each bus had only a handful of riders.  So we’re not talking about very much traffic.

But maybe it’s the very lightness of the traffic that sticks in my craw.  Very few cars take their “once-a-year chance” and very few buses are detoured.  So why do the buses need to be detoured at all?  Why can’t cars share their special night with a few buses?

In closing, here’s a pic of two beagles in front of a tiny chapel near Blue Mound State Park, from this awesome travelblog:

Happy Pupsgiving

 

 

Mooneapolis, A.D. 2030

How to cross the street in February

The council voted yesterday on the items that came out of this cycle’s committee, so it’s probably a bit late to report on what went on in the Transportation & Public Works meeting.  On top of that, the Star Tribune, in their fitful effort to cover Minneapolis, scooped me on a few items.  One was the new civil fines proposed for failing to shovel snow, which I’m excited about.  The idea that we’ll be able to walk a block without sinking to your ankles in snow is one more reason to get excited about winter.  Maybe with the proceeds of this fine the city will be able to afford to finish their plow jobs, instead of leaving icy piles of plow debris blocking every crosswalk.

Speaking of the city affording stuff, I’m obstinately writing this post about the 10/25/11 TPW committee despite having been shown up by professionals because of one item:  the Infrastructure Study presentation.  Basically, Public Works looked at four major transportation infrastructure components and compared their condition to their funding level with the goal of coming up with an eye-popping number to report as a shortfall.

It all begins with the Pavement Condition Index (PCI), or Evidence A that engineers’ confidence in the omnipotence of math is why they shouldn’t be trusted with absolute control over our public spaces.  Here is how the presentation describes it:

The Pavement Condition Index (PCI) is a numerical index between 0 and 100 that is used to indicate the condition of a roadway. It is a statistical measure and is based on a visual survey of the pavement. A numerical value between 0 and 100 defines the condition with 100 representing an excellent pavement.

A 101 point scale would be fine if they were using lasers to measure the pavement surface to discern the level of distortion.  Sending Chuck in his Trail Blazer to glance at the road on the way to McDonald’s is not going to result in a reliable measure, and even a careful visual survey will not reliably tell the difference between a PCI of 71 and a PCI of 72.

Road to Mooneapolis

But the PCI is what we have, and in Minneapolis it’s the low end of the index that is seen more and more.  In fact, the presentation contains an apocalyptic chart showing the descent of many of the cities streets into a gravelly moonscapes within 20 years.  The presentation doesn’t clearly describe, however, what we’re sacrificing back to the elements.  It mentions four networks – 206 miles of Municipal State Aid (MSA) streets, 632 miles of Residential streets, 70 miles of Local streets, and 378 miles of Alleys.  The MSA streets, mostly the heavily traveled arterials such as Hennepin or Nicollet and including many Downtown streets, are fed by the state and projected to remain in roughly the same condition.  It’s Residential streets and Alleys that are going to crumble.  Local streets tend to be a)industrial streets, b)leftover bits of MSA streets or c) the slightly more traveled Residential streets that aren’t vital enough to be MSA routes – circa 2030, they will also be a lo0se arrangement of tar chunks, duct tape and car parts, but there are only 70 miles of them.

Chart Fail

The presentation is interesting, but with one exception it doesn’t really explain how we got into this mess.  (The exception being the Pavement life cycle chart reproduced at left, which terrifyingly predicts “Total Failure” after 16 years if pavement isn’t attended to.)  The problem is less one of underfunding today and more one of overfunding several decades ago.  Around 70% of Minneapolis’ residential streets were built in a 15-year binge from 1967 to 1982.  I don’t know for sure how this indulgence was financed, but a 1966 Citizens’ League report suggests that it was paid for with bonding, which of course is ultimately paid for with property taxes.  So more or less, the city just increased its budget for the massive push to pave Residential streets, and once they were paved the total budget just shrunk, or, more likely, went to other things.

Paved with intentions to pave

So now the city would like to double Public Works’ capital budget to address this crisis of crumbling Residential streets.    Residential streets mostly don’t provide corridors for transportation, except as the very beginning and end of trips.   Instead, both in terms of use and area, their primary function is to provide parking for the residences along them.  It’s difficult to justify expending community resources on such a local benefit, and according to the Citizens’ League report, Residential streets used to be financed mostly locally – at the same time the council decided to jack up property taxes to pay for smooth parking on side streets, it reduced assessments on abutting property owners from 2/3rds to 1/4.   (The local share seems to have been reduced to about 5%, if you can trust my math and this document.)

Smooth paving on side streets, like some rural roads, is probably not necessary for our society to function.  But like subsidies for corporate relocation or sports stadiums, localities feel like they need to shell out in order to be competitive.  I’d say it’s reasonable for people to pay for their own parking spaces, but any proposal to use local money to fund local streets is sure to be met with fury, and it certainly wasn’t mentioned in the presentation.  But if we ever start having a grown-up conversation about how to adjust our life-style to our declining economic situation, I hope that free parking is on the table.

Push me to blink

A quick word about another TPW committee item:  authorization for Public Works to spend $4,000 to convert a pedestrian crossing light “from constantly blinking to user activated.”  Apparently neighbors “observed that many drivers, having become accustomed to a continuously flashing pedestrian light, no longer stop for bicyclists and pedestrians at this location.”  They noticed that drivers yield more often a nearby user-actuated crossing light (no numbers were offered in the RCA, so apparently they took neighbors at their word).  Just another example of the expense we go to in order to avoid enforcing motorists’ legal obligation to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

Bonus Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee item

Bicycle Regulations

Minneapolis will amend its traffic code to explicitly define bicycles as vehicles, and therefore include them in the definition of Traffic.  Vague statements in favor of clarity were included in the Request for Council Action rather than an explicit rationale for the revision.  My first thought was that this will now guarantee that cyclists can be charged with violations of the traffic code, although Gary Schiff says the goal is to “make it easier to issue a ticket to someone parked in a bike lane.”  I just hope it won’t settle the Great Crosswalk Debate in favor of requiring cyclists to stop and yield in a crosswalk.

Bonus Community Development Committee item

Minnesota Statewide Historical and Cultural Grants Program (a/k/a Legacy Grants Program)

Warehouse District atmosphere

Staff is recommending that the City apply for a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society to help implement the Warehouse District Heritage Street Plan, which recommends rebuilding several crumbling patchwork streets mostly in the North Loop with brick pavers in an effort to restore their appearance as existed at a certain point in history.  The summary from the Request for Council Action is worth quoting in full:

Funded with a 2010 Legacy Grant, The Warehouse District Heritage Street Plan set out a detailed street-by-street plan for preserving historic infrastructure in the Warehouse Historic District. The Plan provides a practical, forward looking, and historically-sensitive approach preserving and rehabilitating historic streets and loading docks while improving pedestrian accessibility, and enhancing stormwater run-off by increasing sustainable practices within the Warehouse Historic District. The completed document was approved by the HPC in August of 2011. The document is a detailed street-by-street plan with specific trouble-shooting for how to preserve the remaining historic materials and industrial infrastructure, while accommodating the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and addressing the need for street and sewer repairs. The plan will be used to inform the individual site decisions that property owners, design professionals, and the City will need to make when properties in the District are rehabilitated. It is also being used as the guiding document for the design and development of City capital improvement projects for the reconstruction and repair of specific streets and alleys.

Now that the plan is completed, CPED and Public Works are beginning work toward implementation with a focus on reconstruction of 6th Avenue North. One of the challenges identified in the plan is that original brick material will be deficient to reuse throughout the district due to breakage or removal from past utility cuts. In order to reconstruct 6th Avenue North with full brick replacement, Public Works will need to find similar brick from other city streets under reconstruction. This grant will be used to salvage, palletize, transfer, and store subsurface brick from other City projects where the brick is similar to that in the Warehouse District. One possible removal project will occur in 2012 with the first phase of Nicollet Avenue South reconstruction.

The Plan is worth looking through, especially Chapter 5, or the design concepts for specific streets.  In one sense this is good news, because the sooner Minneapolis has more experience with textured pavement surfaces, the more people will realize their traffic calming effect.  The bad news is, if the first removal project won’t happen till 2012, it could be awhile before these plans are realized – and the North Lo0p badly needs new infrastructure.  I’m looking out my window at a big pile of brick pavers torn up as part of the new Lunds construction at 12th and Hennepin – Public Works, would it help if I gave you the number to Zeman Construction?