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Help in sight for walkers, bicyclists in area

This drawing shows what a pedestrian crossing on 3rd Avenue and Jefferson Street (looking west) in Alexandria may look like. Another option is to place the crossing, which includes a "refuge island," one block to the east on Kenwood Street.

Pedestrians and bicyclists, rejoice!

The city of Alexandria was recently informed that its applications for two pedestrian/bicycle projects were approved to receive federal funding.

City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven told the Alexandria City Council Monday night that the projects include:

• Extending the pedestrian and bicycle trail along Geneva Road from Birch Avenue to Highway 29 North.

The grant for the project is roughly $414,000, said Schoonhoven.

• Building an improved pedestrian/bicycle crossing on 3rd Avenue at Jefferson or Kenwood Street. The city is still exploring which option would work best.

The grant for this work is about $62,000, according to Schoonhoven.

Both projects are still a long ways out, Schoonhoven noted. The 3rd Avenue project is currently set for 2014 and the Geneva Road funding is for 2015.

Council member Virgil Batesole asked how the city would handle getting input on which 3rd Avenue crossing the public preferred - Jefferson or Kenwood. He added that each one has advantages and disadvantages.

"We the public should decide," said Batesole.

Schoonhoven said that the group that's spearheading the effort to build a safer crossing on 3rd Avenue, Douglas County Active Living, held several public hearings to gather input before recommending the crossing on Jefferson Street since it is already a city-designated bike road.

Since then, however, some have suggested that a crossing on Kenwood Street would make more sense because it would provide better access to the trail.

Schoonhoven said that more public hearings could be set before the city makes a decision.

As part of the project, a new "pedestrian refuge island" would be installed.

Instead of trying to cross more than 70 feet of busy street all at once, pedestrians and bicyclists would only have to go 30 feet to reach the island and then walk or pedal across another 30-foot section of crosswalk after that.

In addition, pedestrians would only have to navigate traffic in a single direction at a time.

The crosswalk would be painted bright red and include a pedestrian-activated signal to alert drivers.

Although all six intersections on 3rd Avenue between Broadway and Nokomis have crosswalks, drivers generally ignore them. There are few gaps in traffic and the street handles about 16,500 vehicles per day, according to a 2008 study.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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