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Contributed photos A group of downtown business owners, community members and leaders, city officials, Active Living members and others took part in a walking tour Wednesday to learn about Complete Streets.

Complete Streets: Group looks at ideas for making city more bicycle, pedestrian friendly

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Wider sidewalks, better signage, landscaping features, pedestrian furniture, bump outs, bike lanes, parking bays, protective medians.

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Could some of these features soon be found on Broadway in downtown Alexandria?

In early June, Active Living Douglas County launched an initiative, Envisioning a Redesigned Broadway, to expand the way people think about streets in the city of Alexandria, particular downtown.

On Wednesday, a group of downtown business owners, community members and leaders, city officials, Active Living members and others gathered together to discuss what Broadway might look like in the future.

They discussed the "Complete Streets" concept and what that design might look like here. So, what is "Complete Streets?"

It's is a basic concept where all streets, except perhaps limited access highways, should be designed and built for all users. This means pedestrians and bicyclists, people with disabilities and people using motor vehicles.

This type of street concept accommodates the young and old; the physically able and the physically challenged; parents pushing strollers; bicycles as well as cars, buses and trucks, according to Karin Tank, the assistant Alexandria city planner.

In a letter inviting community members to the three "Envisioning a Redesigned Broadway" meetings (two more are scheduled - August 9 and September 20), Tank explained the benefits of a Completes Streets design, which include greater safety, increased opportunities for physical activity, enhanced economic vitality, improved air quality and an overall better quality of life.

The philosophy, she said, is that "if you design streets that invite people to walk and bicycle, they might even stop along the way."

Wednesday's meeting, which took place at Broadway Ballroom, drew 73 people. Before the meeting, a smaller group - nearly 20 people - took a walking tour of the downtown area.

The meeting was hosted by members of Active Living Douglas County and West Central Wellness. The speakers included Jessica Peterson and Amy Reineke. Both are health educators with Douglas County Public Health.

Three other people spoke - Tank, Bruce Chamberlain with HKGI, Inc., a professional planning and landscape architecture firm, and Jack Forslund with WSB and Associates, a consultant engineering firm.

While talking about the Complete Streets concept, Chamberlain said downtown Alexandria would benefit.

"Downtown areas in general are a favorite for these environments," he said.

Chamberlain said the reason communities are going to a Complete Streets design is because there is an increasing demand for alternative transportation, such as biking and walking. In addition, there is a demand for economic development.

"You need to think of your streets as an investment," said Chamberlain.

He also talked about the need for increased physical activity.

In 1964, Chamberlain said that 50 percent of kids rode their bikes to school and only 12 percent of children were obese.

In 2004, however, only 8 percent of kids rode their bikes to school and 45 percent were considered obese.

"The number of children who are obese more than tripled," he said.

In a "walking neighborhood," residents do 35 to 45 more minutes of physical activity, noted Chamberlain.

Once all the information was provided by the panel of speakers, the participants at each table had 10 minutes to discuss the issue of Complete Streets and share their ideas with the rest of the group.

Here is a brief look at some of the concerns, ideas and questions:

•Money. Nearly all of the participants questioned who would pay for the Complete Streets project. One participant said, "Dream big, but be mindful of the dollars."

•Trail access. Participants talked about how there is no trail access from downtown Broadway to the Central Lakes Trail. They mentioned that crossing 3rd Avenue is difficult and that this is something that should be looked at. The need for bike racks was also mentioned by several of the participants.

•Parking. Most of the participants liked the Complete Streets idea, but didn't want to lose any parking in the downtown area. Several mentioned the option of using side streets such as Hawthorne and Fillmore for the Complete Streets design and leaving Broadway the way it is. "Revamping Broadway would not serve the public well," said one of the participants.

•One-way streets. Again, many of the participants suggested using Hawthorne and Fillmore Streets for bicycle and pedestrian use, maybe turning them into one-ways and using one lane for motorists and the other for pedestrians and bicyclists. "Don't focus strictly on Broadway," said one of the participants. Another said, "Let's expand the downtown area by using Fillmore and Hawthorne."

•Streetlights. One table of participants mentioned putting stoplights at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Jefferson Street. They didn't want to see stop signs, a lighted crosswalk or painted crosswalk, but thought stoplights would be much better.

The next meetings will take place on Monday, August 9 and Monday, September 20. Both meetings will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m.

More information about the Complete Streets design and concept can be found on the Active Living website at www.activelivingdc.webs.com.

For more information, contact Karin Tank at (320) 763-6678 or by e-mail at ktank@rea-alp.com.

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