Future Transportation Plans Include More Safe Walking Spaces

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota transportation officials have come up with a 20-year plan that they hope will encourage more walking by creating more safe spaces for pedestrians along state roads and highways.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation Statewide Pedestrian System Plan has taken two years and cost roughly $600,000 to complete, the Star Tribune reported. The 136-page report included citizen input from across the state. The report's goals include promoting walking as essential and making walking safer and more enjoyable.

“Creating safe places for people to walk is essential to improving equity and mobility, addressing climate change, and ultimately providing a better quality of life for everyone,” Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher said in a statement last week.

Three-fourths of the 2,700 people statewide who offered feedback said they “completely support” improvements for walking. The report said maintenance was a key issue, with survey respondents saying sidewalks and paths aren't maintained as well as roads during the winter.

Minnesotans also supported improved pedestrian crossings, more trees, benches and other amenities, separate paths for walkers and bicyclists, wider paths and sidewalks and more space between pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Survey respondents also said signal-controlled intersections should allow more time for pedestrians to cross.

The survey also found that fewer than a third of respondents said they walk “at least a few times a week.” Transportation officials said they want to see that double to 60%.

If all of the recommendations in the plan become reality over the 20-year period, the cost would range from $221 million to $648 million, said Jake Rueter, a pedestrian and bicycle planner for the transportation department. He said the agency projects that the societal cost for traffic-related pedestrian incidents over those same 20 years could be roughly $4 billion if the proposed measures are not implemented.

Seventeen pedestrians have been killed in traffic incidents in Minnesota so far this year, according to Department of Public Safety data that was last updated on Thursday. Since then, two more pedestrians were killed in Hennepin County over the weekend, according to information from the medical examiner, bringing the total to at least 19.