Connecting the Park

March 4, 2020
 
Article contributed by: Luke Wheeler, EIT, Design Engineer and Matt Blazer, P.E., Project Engineer, Bolton & Menk, Inc., APWA-MN sponsor
 
In a world of planes, trains, and automobiles, more and more travelers are opting to walk or use bicycles—an environmentally and economically friendlier way to get around their communities. As a community that strives to lead in progressive and innovative public initiatives, the City of St. Louis Park made it a priority to ensure both pedestrians and bicyclists have the necessary facilities to make safe and efficient trips by initiating their Connect the Park Plan in 2012.
 
Connect the Park is the city’s 10-year plan to construct a comprehensive, citywide network of bikeways, sidewalks, and trails enabling residents access to nearby facilities to travel about the city. Each year, several Connect the Park segments are completed as they move toward their goal of a fully connected city. When possible, projects are aligned with planned capital improvement projects and the city’s engineering staff uses community engagement and feedback to help guide each project’s designs. This year, the 1.5-mile reconstruction of Cedar Lake Road, a collector street from Kentucky Avenue to Quentin Avenue, provided a great opportunity for the city to implement critical pedestrian and bikeway connections that were part of their Connect the Park plan. Cedar Lake Road serves as a major regional connection for sidewalks and bikeways and allows for significant future expansion of their grid system. It also connects several existing and planned bikeways to the North Cedar Lake Regional Trail and connects pedestrians and bicyclists to the popular commercial destination – The Shops at West End. The Cedar Lake Road project, which just finished construction in November 2019, included utility improvements, pavement rehabilitation, lighting improvements, intersection improvements, a roundabout, and a revamped corridor section that achieves safer and more efficient travel for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
 
Pedestrian Enhancements – For a majority of the project area, the only pedestrian facility was a 5-foot wide sidewalk on the north side of the road. This provided limited options for local residents looking to exercise, use transit, or travel to destinations by foot, including nearby shops and restaurants. 
 
While adding a sidewalk on the south side of the road would have been the simple solution, the city elected to go above and beyond to improve the safety and functionality for pedestrians using the corridor. Specific pedestrian enhancements included narrowing intersections to provide shorter crossing lengths and increased sightlines; providing median refuges at key crossing locations; installing rectangular rapid flash beacon (RRFB) systems at the highest-density crossings; providing boulevard buffers whenever possible; widening and expanding existing trails on the east end for safer usage; as well as corridor-wide ADA-related improvements on the existing facilities to ensure the facilities are accessible to everyone.  
 
Bikeway Enhancements – Three design alternatives were developed for bikeway facilities on the project: on-street bike lanes; one-way cycle tracks on each side of the street; and a two-way cycle track on one side of the street. Design factors included safe and efficient crossings of side streets, pedestrian/bicycle interactions, active connections to public transportation, increased connectivity between existing bicycle facilities, and of course, cost. As with any roadway improvement project, there was a major competition for space. After reviewing the pros and cons of each option, a fourth option was developed:
 
  • An on-street bike lane with buffer strips on the north side of the street for westbound bikers. This allowed the city to keep existing mature boulevard trees and save a significant amount of money by keeping a large portion of the existing north curb line in place.
  • An off-street one-way cycle track on the south side of the street for eastbound bikers. This provided a protected biking facility for those who do not feel comfortable riding on the street. The cycle track was connected to the new sidewalk and colored concrete was used for the off-street cycle track in order to differentiate the two facilities. In addition to the cycle track, a wider curb was also added for eastbound commuting bikers who prefer to ride on the street versus on an off-street cycle track.
Careful consideration was made at intersections to ensure cyclists could safely cross traffic. Specialized ADA-compliant ramps were designed on the south side of the road to transition cyclists from the off-street cycle track, onto the roadway to cross the intersection, and safely back onto the cycle track. Green bicycle lane crosswalk blocks were installed adjacent to pedestrian crosswalk blocks at critical crossing locations to clarify pedestrian crossings from the bicycle facility crossings. 
 
These new pedestrian and bicycle facilities along Cedar Lake Road will serve as a safe and efficient transportation option for travelers opting for non-motorized transportation to get around the city. 
 
For more information about cycle tracks and how they can improve transportation in your community, contact Kyle Johnson, Principal Engineer, Bolton & Menk, Inc., at 612-756-4339 or kyle.johnson@bolton-menk.com.

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