Downtown Crookston Development Partnership Walkability Study presented to City Council

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

The Downtown Crookston Development Partnership (DCDP) recently presented their Walkability Study results to the City Council and had some recommendations for the areas studied based on the survey findings. DCDP board member Rani Bhattacharyya, who shared the study summary, first clarified it was a companion to, not a replacement of the current Highway 2 Corridor Study that the city, Minnesota Department of Transportation and SRF Consulting are currently conducting.

The study, which was funded through an AARP grant obtained by the DCDP, was done in July and August 2021 for the corridors of Ash Street (between Loring Street and 7th Street) and Market Street (between 2nd Street and 5th Street) which is near or just outside the corridors that the city is working on. Street survey volunteers included Shirley Iverson, Matt Gilmore, Kirsten Fagerlund, Marley Melbye, Don Cavalier, Wayne Melbye, Kay Hegge, Mark Landa, Brian Frisk, Tom Anderson, Kristi Jacobsen Jerde and Rani Bhattacharyya.

The method of the study was that the street survey volunteers would use the AARP Walkability Toolkit and survey highlighted street areas during a certain time. Some completed their survey from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on July 31 and others at other times in August. Volunteers were asked to complete one toolkit booklet for each intersection they covered and to take pictures if they felt something needed to be recorded for reference.

Some of the findings in the Ash Street area during the study were that 40% of the pedestrian traffic were bicyclists, 21% of pedestrians walked at a slower pace than what would be considered "average", there were unstable pavers found along the route and some areas could better accommodate side-by-side walking if the sidewalks were widened. Other observations were that there's a blind corner by the Grand Theatre and the speed of vehicular traffic and inconsistent stopping at stop signs were a concern.

Findings in the Market Street area during the study included observations such as the road functions more as an alley rather than a full street and there were concerns about the uneven, unkempt and inconsistent surface of the road. Some of the surveyors suggested better landscaping and the possible addition of a sidewalk along the railroad side of the street which would make it a quieter and calmer pedestrian and bicycle route to downtown than busy Main St.

Bhattacharyya told the Council that aesthetic improvements such as enhancing walkability and adding traffic-calming elements to the streets were recommendations the study found.

"Another recommendation that was pretty strong in the data collected during the report was that ADA compliance at all four corners of each corridor intersection would be preferable so they were accessible by members from all throughout the community rather than just a few arterial entryways/entry points in the downtown area," she added.

Bhattacharyya also mentioned that City Administrator Amy Finch had found that the Market Street area is owned by Burlington Northern Railroad so aesthetic modifications would be "challenging", but Robert and Ash Street intersections were covered by the city's corridor study.

One of the "asks" of the city resulting from the study, Bhattacharyya continued, includes making Ash Street between Robert and Houston a possibility for aesthetic improvement with public art and community gathering space plus the addition of a "ghost sign" waypoint map at the entrance of Central Park - which the DCDP is already working on.

"I did contact Eric Castle who has a design class at UMC who said he would be willing to design aesthetic improvements along the corridor if the city would like to pursue the opportunity," she suggested.

She closed her presentation showing two pieces of public art, "Painful Thoughts" by Monique Arguelles and "Electrifying" by April Gomez, from Studio 110 (In Progress) that could be used as an inspiration for Ash and Robert with the idea of creating a more welcoming community to newcomers.

Links to the art can be found here:

https://inprogress.smugmug.com/Initiatives/Fresh-voices/2019/Artwork/Posters/i-3D9nWXX/A

https://inprogress.smugmug.com/Initiatives/Fresh-voices/2017/Artwork/Posters/Web-ready/i-jDC6jk6/A

Downtown Crookston Development Partnership