5:00 p.m.Thursday, October 20, 2022
The City of Robbinsdale has a lot of work to do to replace aging infrastructure throughout the city. According to city engineers, some of this infrastructure, which includes everything from water pipes to storm sewer lines, is about 100 years old.
But a $6.6 million plan to improve groundwater services for a section of Hubbard Avenue and surrounding streets includes something some residents are protesting against. That something: a 10-foot-wide bike path.
Such street projects are an opportune time for cities to make other improvements, such as installing a bike lane or a sidewalk. In Robbinsdale’s case, the city is trying to make itself a “walkable, cycle-friendly city” as called for in its comprehensive plan, a document that involves decades of review.
Residents, however, on Hubbard Avenue — more specifically, a quarter-mile stretch between Grimes and 38th Avenue — wonder if a bike lane is needed at significant cost to their yards and wallets.
For residents like Patrick Mengelkoch, that means losing about 30 feet of his front yard, property that’s part of the city’s right-of-way.
“I have lived there for five years. I haven’t seen any instances where a bike lane was needed or people asked to ride their bikes there,” Mengelkoch said.
David Ulbrich, who also lives on Hubbard, delivered a petition to the city council with 48 signatures against the project. Ulbrich said that’s almost everyone on his street.
“There’s absolutely no need to add that to Hubbard’s east side,” Ulbrich said. “It’s an absolutely ridiculous waste of money.”
The other side of the street has a sidewalk, which would also be repaired as part of the overall project.
The average assessment for each affected homeowner is $7,385. Residents can pay in full by November 2023 to avoid interest, or repay their share over 10 years. Owner appraisals total nearly $550,000.
City council on the fence
The street portion of the project would reduce Hubbard Avenue from 34 feet to 32 feet. This would allow one lane of traffic in each direction. The project also includes an 8-foot parking lane that would alternate on each side to calm the speed of traffic.
Most street and infrastructure improvements would be funded by a combination of city and state funds. Hubbard Avenue is a state aid road due to its higher traffic volume and being a key collector street.
Richard McCoy, the city engineer, said Hubbard was chosen for a bikeway because it’s a primary link and also makes sense for safety reasons. West Broadway, which parallels Hubbard to the north, was deemed too busy with buses and trucks, McCoy said.
City staff also indicated that the bike path was included because it follows the overall plan of the city. The bike path could eventually connect to 40th Avenue, where a possible Blue Line Extension light rail stop could go.
“Staff strongly believes that the inclusion of infrastructure such as this trail, as the opportunity permits, must remain a priority,” McCoy said. “Over time, as the routes are completed, the city will have developed an excellent system of connectivity with its cycle paths.”
Some members of Robbinsdale City Council initially supported the cycleway, but are not so sure anymore.
“For me, I was okay with the bike lane, to be transparent. But hearing the opposition, I definitely have to consider that,” said Sheila Webb, one of four members currently sitting on the board.
Robbinsdale City Council ended up tabling the project at its October 18 meeting to allow for further discussion.
“If we want to have a policy, we had a full streets policy that we created and a cycle and walk town policy. If we don’t continue this, why would we plan anything? said Pat Backen, who supports the bike path. “These are tough and difficult decisions without a doubt.”
See also: Robbinsdale to support resolution asking for help with light rail route