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2014 Complete Streets legislative report

This report is in response to the legislative directive to the commissioner of transportation to report on MnDOT’s Complete Streets activities. Minnesota Laws 2010, Chapter 351, Section 72, requires that the report:

 

 

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Introductory cover letter

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January 15, 2014


The Honorable Frank Hornstein, Chair
House Transportation Finance Committee
471 State Office Building
Saint Paul, MN 55155


The Honorable Michael Beard, GOP Lead
House Transportation Finance Committee
207 State Office Building
Saint Paul, MN 55155


The Honorable Ron Erhardt, Chair
House Transportation Policy Committee
543 State Office Building
Saint Paul, MN 55155


The Honorable Linda Runbeck, GOP Lead
House Transportation Policy Committee
295 State Office Building
Saint Paul, MN 55155


The Honorable Scott Dibble, Chair
Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee
111 Capitol
Saint Paul, MN 55155


The Honorable John C. Pederson
Ranking Minority Member
Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee
27 State Office Building
Saint Paul, MN 55155


Dear Legislators:

 

I am pleased to present MnDOT's complete streets report, as required by Laws of Minnesota 2010, Chapter 351, Section 72.


MnDOT’s implementation of complete streets is an important method for advancing our vision of a multimodal transportation system that maximizes the health of people, the environment and our economy. This report provides an overview of MnDOT’s implementation of complete streets, including updates to protocols and guidance and potential changes in the state-aid standards variance process and bicycle and pedestrian rules to facilitate the implementation of MnDOT’s complete streets policy.


Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this report, or contact Mark Nelson in MnDOT's Office of Transportation System Management at mark.b.nelson@state.mn.us or 651-366-3794.


Sincerely,


Charles A. Zelle

Commissioner

 

 

 

MnDOT Implementation of Complete Streets Policy, January 2014

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Prepared by
Minnesota Department of Transportation

395 John Ireland Boulevard

Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155-1899


Phone: 651-296-3000

Toll-Free: 1-800-657-3774

TTY, Voice or ASCII: 1-800-627-3529

 

 

To request this document in an alternative format
Please call 651-366-4718 or 1-800-657-3774 (Greater Minnesota). You may also send an email to ADArequest.dot@state.mn.us.

 

 

Legislative request

This report is issued to comply with Laws of Minnesota 2010, Chapter 351, Section 72.

 

The commissioner of transportation shall submit to the chairs and ranking minority members of the house of representatives and senate committees with jurisdiction over transportation policy and finance reports that:

 

(1) by January 15, 2011, summarize the department's complete streets initiatives, summarize steps taken to expedite and improve the transparency of the state-aid variance process related to complete streets, outline plans to develop and implement a complete streets policy, and identify any statutory barriers to complete streets implementation;

 

(2) by January 15, 2012, summarize the results of the collaboration under Minnesota Statutes, section 174.75, subdivision 3; identify modifications made to or recommended for protocols, guidance, standards, or other requirements to facilitate complete streets implementation; report status of development of complete streets performance indicators; outline other work planned related to the complete streets policy; and identify statutory recommendations to facilitate complete streets policy implementation; and

 

(3) by January 15, 2014, overview the department's implementation of complete streets policy; note updates to protocols, guidance, standards, or requirements; identify any recommendations for supporting local complete streets implementation under the state-aid standards variance process; and identify statutory recommendations to facilitate complete streets policy implementation.

 

The cost of preparing this report is under $5,000.

 

 

Implementation Overview

 

Definition

Minnesota Statutes 174.75 defines complete streets as the planning, scoping, design, implementation, operation and maintenance of roads in order to reasonably address the safety and accessibility needs of users of all ages and abilities. Complete streets considers the needs of motorists, pedestrians, transit users and vehicles, bicyclists, and commercial and emergency vehicles moving along and across roads, intersections and crossings. It does this in a manner that is sensitive to the local context and recognizes that needs vary in urban, suburban and rural settings.

 


MnDOT’s Approach to Complete Streets

For MnDOT, complete streets addresses the transportation needs of non-motorized users, but also the needs of transit, freight and other vehicular traffic. The goal is to balance the needs of all users in a manner that allows safe access to destinations regardless of mode. This means that MnDOT considers complete streets as part of every project the agency delivers. To that end, MnDOT does not have specific complete streets projects. Instead, the needs of all transportation users are evaluated when planning and designing every project.


The context of each highway is an important consideration for MnDOT when designing projects that meet the needs of all transportation users. Complete streets in a rural setting look different than complete streets on a main street through a small community, which may look different than complete streets in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. To accommodate this variation, MnDOT does not use a standard complete streets template. Instead, MnDOT uses flexible design to select elements that are affordable and appropriate for the context. Local needs and requirements can vary, so the options selected may look different even in situations that may appear similar. Appendix A includes a sample of complete streets design elements used in MnDOT projects.


Complete streets are best evaluated at the network level. This means that sometimes parallel roads, trails or other transportation facilities may be best suited to accommodate the mobility needs of specific users within a particular corridor. The trunk highway system is part of a larger transportation network and MnDOT regularly partners with cities, counties, tribes and other agencies to fund, design and maintain this integrated system.

 

 

Previous Accomplishments

In 2009, MnDOT reported to the Minnesota Legislature on the feasibility of implementing a complete streets policy in Minnesota. The report asserted that MnDOT was well-positioned to respond to complete streets because it was one of the first state transportation departments to develop a context sensitive solutions approach to project development. CSS is a collaborative approach to design that uses input from stakeholders to adapt a project’s design to fit its setting and surrounding environmental, cultural, historical, architectural and economic context. This approach is easily adapted to address complete streets.


In 2010, the legislature directed MnDOT to implement a complete streets policy. Since the law’s adoption, MnDOT has focused on changing protocols, providing guidance to internal staff and external stakeholders, and developing new standards.


MnDOT’s previous legislative reports on complete streets identified the following efforts to establish MnDOT’s complete streets approach:

 

Modified Design Guidelines for the Trunk Highway System
In 2009, MnDOT began an initiative to implement a flexible approach to road and street design. The initiative resulted in a set of design policies adopted in 2012 (e.g. Design Speed Guidance for State Highways) that are the most flexible of any state transportation agency in the nation. They were written to provide improved safety and functionality for all users of the trunk highway system, and are consistent with the goals of complete streets.


Aligned Context Sensitive Solutions Initiatives with Complete Streets
Beginning in 2009, MnDOT worked to integrate complete streets into CSS curricula and other resources. MnDOT hosted a one-day CSS National Dialog Workshop, developed an online CSS module with complete streets information and hosted 14 other CSS and flexibility in design-related workshops, webinars and forums that integrated complete streets into the curriculum. These efforts reached an internal and external audience of more than 1,200 people in 2010 and 2011.


Completed an ADA Transition Plan
To address the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, MnDOT developed a transition plan in 2010 to outline key actions necessary to make the state transportation system more accessible for people with disabilities. Ensuring ADA requirements are met is an important element of complete streets and generally results in a more functional transportation system for everyone.


Established a Complete Streets Advisory Group
In 2010, MnDOT established a broad stakeholder group to help develop statewide policies and technical guidance related to complete streets. Membership included elected officials, transportation advocates, and county and city representatives. The group helped MnDOT craft the new technical protocols that currently guide the agency’s work.


Created Minnesota GO Vision
In 2011, MnDOT adopted a long-range vision for transportation that aligns strongly with complete streets. Based on the Minnesota GO Vision, MnDOT revised the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan. The plan identifies collaborative strategies for working with local partners. These strategies are an important step in complete streets implementation because they provide a mechanism for determining the needs of the system based on community context.

 

 

Implementation Since the 2012 Legislative Report

Through collaboration with the Complete Streets Advisory Group, MnDOT established a policy statement, as well as administrative and technical guidance for complete streets implementation.

 

Policy Statement
In 2013, MnDOT adopted a complete streets policy that applies to the trunk highway system. It provides clear direction to MnDOT staff and external partners that the agency will consider the needs of all applicable users on every project, at all stages of development. The policy statement states:

 

The Minnesota Department of Transportation requires that the principles of “complete streets” be considered at all phases of planning and project development in the establishment, development, operation, and maintenance of a comprehensive, integrated, and connected multimodal transportation system.

Protocols
Two protocols now support the MnDOT policy on complete streets implementation:


In addition to the new policy and protocols, several MnDOT efforts have advanced the agency’s implementation of complete streets.

 

20-Year Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan (MnSHIP)
MnDOT’s 20-Year State Highway Investment Plan 2014-2033 is the agency’s first highway investment plan to explicitly include bicycle and pedestrian investment needs. The plan establishes an investment framework for implementing completes streets, including allocating financial resources to address ADA requirements, pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, safety improvements and other design elements as part of trunk highway projects.


Corridor Investment Management Strategy
MnDOT established the Corridor Investment Management Strategy in 2012 as a corridor-based initiative to identify opportunities for collaborative and innovative investments with local, modal and state partners. Initial CIMS efforts included extensive mapping of state highways, including bicycle, transit and freight elements to assist future project planning for complete streets.


As part of the overall CIMS initiative, MnDOT provided $30 million through a competitive solicitation in 2013 to fund trunk highway projects that improve quality of life, environmental health or economic competitiveness. In evaluating applications, MnDOT awarded points for projects that included complete streets elements.


Complete Streets Training
In spring 2013, MnDOT piloted a complete streets training course as the newest offering within the CSS educational curricula. This two-day class combines classroom instruction, a small group design activity, large group field reconnaissance and interaction with local stakeholders. MnDOT plans to offer the class again in 2014 and future years.

 

Research
MnDOT commissioned several research projects to understand how Minnesota can best implement complete streets. Examples of these research efforts include:

 

 

Current MnDOT Implementation Activities

MnDOT’s complete streets implementation efforts are now focused on developing a documentation process, exemptions protocol and process indicators for all MnDOT projects, consistent with the adopted policy. Additional efforts are underway to review existing policies and guidelines for consistency with complete streets. MnDOT remains committed to collaborative planning with stakeholders and local partners to achieve an integrated multimodal transportation system.


Internal Working Group
A complete streets internal working group was formed in October 2013 to address policy implementation questions related to documentation, exemptions, training, performance measures and process indicators. This group includes a diverse range of perspectives including maintenance, design, engineering, planning, transit, bicycle, pedestrian, ADA, freight and state aid.


District Outreach
In December 2013, the internal working group met with planners, design engineers, project managers and maintenance staff in all of MnDOT’s eight districts. These discussions focused on the practical and technical aspects of complete streets at each stage of project development. Maintenance responsibilities were also discussed. The internal working group is using district perspectives and insights from these meetings as it develops new documentation and exemptions protocols for complete streets.


Exemptions Protocol
MnDOT’s complete streets policy and technical memorandum provide reasons exemptions might be granted. The agency is in the process of crafting an exemptions protocol for project development that provides greater clarity for when and why exemptions will be allowed. The protocol will apply to all MnDOT projects, and is expected to be ready by April 2014.


Cost Participation Policy
MnDOT is currently working with local, regional and state partners to update the agency’s cost participation policy. The existing policy presents obstacles for complete streets by often requiring the jurisdiction that proposes a design option to pay for the element to be included. The updated policy is being revised to determine the cost responsibility for each design element based on transportation needs. This will provide greater flexibility for MnDOT and local partners to consider complete streets design elements that serve the needs of all users of the transportation system. The revised policy will be available in March 2014.

 

Performance Measures and Process Indicators
In September 2013, MnDOT identified a preliminary set of existing performance measures related to complete streets and will refine this list during the coming year. Preliminary measures include indicators for safety, system extent, system condition, system usage and accessibility. Process indicators also are being established in conjunction with the development of the exemptions protocol.


Project-level Implementation Reporting
In April 2013, MnDOT identified projects that have incorporated or will incorporate complete streets elements. More than 75 examples were identified by MnDOT’s eight districts, demonstrating significant progress in implementing complete streets during the past three years.


Guidance Document
MnDOT has contracted with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies to develop a complete streets guidance document for use by MnDOT staff, as well as a broad audience of external stakeholders. The document will provide local agencies, administrators, planners, project managers and designers specific guidance for implementing complete streets based on various land use contexts and road classifications. The guidance document should be complete in late 2014.


ADA Transition Plan Update
MnDOT is updating the agency’s ADA Transition Plan to incorporate progress made since 2010, including a recently completed sidewalk inventory. The update should be complete in late 2014.


Statewide Bicycle System Plan
MnDOT is developing a Statewide Bicycle System Plan that will provide policy and scoping guidance, implementation tools, and priorities for bicycle-related investments on the trunk highway system. The plan is anticipated to be complete in late 2014.


Revising the Bikeway Facility Manual
MnDOT is updating the Bikeway Facility Design Manual to align with the updated Statewide Bicycle System Plan and complete streets approach. The focus will be to review the 2012 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities and the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide to ensure the new bike manual will be consistent with national practices and Minnesota’s unique needs.

 

Statewide Freight System Plan
MnDOT is preparing to update the Statewide Freight System Plan. The plan will identify important highway corridors for freight and is anticipated to be complete in 2015.

 

 

Supporting Local Implementation

 

The majority of roads and streets in the state of Minnesota are under the jurisdiction of counties and local municipalities. As a result, the majority of opportunities for complete streets are on the local and county systems.


To that end, MnDOT helped fund a complete streets resource guide for local agencies interested in developing their own complete streets policy. This resource includes an overview of complete streets, a brief synthesis of local and national practices, an explanation of various terms and definitions, guidance on implementation, a summary of agencies in Minnesota with complete streets policies or other related guidance, and an overview of applicable state and federal law.


In addition to offering complete streets training, MnDOT has co-sponsored Bikeable Communities Workshops through a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. These workshops trained city staff and advocates throughout the state on how to create more opportunities for biking within their communities. Topics included road design, safety, education, enforcement and encouragement strategies. Six workshops were offered in 2013 and another 10 are anticipated to be offered in 2014.


MnDOT also supports local planning efforts for complete streets. Through a grant from Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, MnDOT worked with Grand Rapids to pilot test a complete streets planning effort. The planning process resulted in a complete streets plan for the city and is now a national example of a collaborative approach to planning.

 

State Aid Rules Review

MnDOT commissioned a study to assess urban street designs associated with complete streets, the results of which were recently published. The report evaluated the operational and safety effects of non-standard road designs including, but not limited to, narrower street cross sections and curb extensions. The results of the study suggest that flexibility in State Aid Design Standards would not lead to adverse safety outcomes. These findings corroborate national research from 2007, which was the basis for relaxing national and MnDOT trunk highway design standards in the years since the research was published.


In light of these research findings, and MnDOT’s complete streets policy and ongoing commitment to roadway safety improvement, the geometric design criteria in the Minnesota State Aid Rules should be reviewed and revised to align with current national practices. This would ensure all streets and roads in Minnesota benefit from design guidance that facilitates the safe accommodation of all expected road users.

 

 

Recommendations

 

In order to increase MnDOT’s design flexibility, avoid conflicting guidelines and allow for modernization and regular updating of design criteria, MnDOT recommends a review of the 8810 and 8820 rules related to bicycles to either repeal or amend specific sections and subparts that may be out of date or inconsistent with current practice.


The current rules were enacted in the 1970s and no longer reflect industry practice. Some of the rules related to bicycles contradict other sections of the rules or are unclear in their application. MnDOT’s Bikeway Facility Design Manual is currently being updated and will be much more complete, accurate and in line with national standards than what exists in rules. Repealing these rules would allow MnDOT to revise design criteria more frequently to adapt to changing standards and new research. Such a change would be more in line with MnDOT practice in regard to other design elements.


Recommendations related to state aid rules are discussed in the previous section of this report.

 

 

Appendix A: Illustrative Examples of Complete Streets Elements on MnDOT Projects


Narrow Lanes

St. Peter Highway 169 project narrowed vehicle lanes through the urban section to slow travel speeds to improve safety.

 

 

 

Bikeable Shoulder

Marcell Highway 38 provides a four-foot bikeable shoulder that has helped reduce crashes by 55 percent along the route.

 

 

 

Bus Shoulder

Minneapolis Interstate 35W has bus-only shoulders for effective movement of transit traffic.

 

 

 

Bike Lane

Highway 65 (Central Avenue NE) in Columbia Heights and Minneapolis has a combination of bike lanes and shared lane markings (sharrows). These were added as part of a 2012 mill and overlay project.

 

 

 

Curb Ramp

Highway 2 in Grand Rapids has pedestrian curb ramps that adhere to the specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

 

 

Pedestrian Refuge

White Bear Lake Interstate 694 has pedestrian friendly crosswalks with refuges in the middle of street to provide safe pedestrian cross-movements.