DMCC board pushes transportation efforts

September 28, 2018
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Destination Medical Center’s transportation strategies continue to chug along as officials look for greater evidence of progress.

Echoing concerns cited in the early days of the initiative, DMC Corp. board member James Campbell said he’d like to see accelerated investment to provide a more proactive strategy.

“That’s really going to define what this community is,” said the former CEO of Wells Fargo Minnesota during Tuesday’s board meeting. “I hope we get off the dime and think big, aggressively put some real effort behind what we want this transportation network to be in the end.”

Board Chairman R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of Minneapolis, said he sees a potential strategy to move ahead with a more defined focus.

“I think there is one issue we must do now, and it is Second Street,” he said, noting the corridor that connects the main Mayo Clinic campus to Saint Marys Hospital can bring key change to the DMC district.

“If we can address Second in an aggressive way, we can really can do a game change on the impact on Civic Center Drive,” he said.

Where Civic Center Drive meets U.S. Highway 52 has been documented as a pinch point for morning and afternoon commuter traffic, and Rybak noted the focus of the ongoing studies have been spread throughout the DMC district and to areas that are affected by increased activity in the core of the city.

He suggested taking a few months to focus on the section of Second Street Southwest east of Highway 52 to see what progress could be made.

Rochester Assistant Administrator Aaron Parrish said that progress is being made, but delays should also be expected.

“We are sort of at this key point to where we need to make some critical decisions,” he told the DMCC board Tuesday.

Some of those decisions will be on where transit hubs can be built south and north of the DMC district.

Eventually, the goal would be to create a bus circulator connecting the transit hubs and key points within the city’s core with frequent bus trips, similar to service provided by a transit rail system.

However, Parrish said such efforts involve a slow process to obtain federal funding to help balance the system’s cost.

“It is about a five-year process for those circulator routes to get from start to finish,” he said, later noting the process for creating a specific plan has not yet started.

At the same time, he said the Second Street conversation remains active and is combined with other efforts.

“I think these things integrate,” he said.

Jim Bier, who represents Olmsted County commissioners on the board, joined Rybak and Campbell in pushing for a more active approach.

“We’ve done a lot of analysis, and I think it’s important that we do something,” he said.

Rybak maintained that the growing development along Second Street emphasizes the need for added attention, suggesting additional transit funds could be found within the city’s growing tax revenues, which could spur additional growth.

“We have to solve the friggin’ problem now,” he said.

On Tuesday, the board approved a capital-improvement plan that calls for $13.3 million in transit spending next year on projects that include increasing the city’s bus fleet and implementing aspects of the DMC transit plan.

The overall capital spending slated for 2019 comes in at $37 million, with approximately $14 million expected to be spent on street and sewer projects, which include the ongoing Fourth Street reconstruction, reconstruction of Sixth and Seventh avenues from Second Street Southwest to Cascade Creek and replacing sanitary sewer along Third Avenue Southeast and First Avenue Southeast between Fourth and First streets.

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