Did you catch last week’s video flyover of Minot’s first phase of flood protection? It’s an extremely helpful visualization tool, and the City of Minot and Houston Engineering should be applauded for developing it. Well done!
That said, there’s a significant design flaw, and if it doesn’t get corrected now, it’s the people in Northeast Minot that will get hosed. Did you notice in the flyover that the path inside the wall stops at the Saint Ann Bridge? Did you notice that the only access point for Northeast Minot residents to the wet side of the wall is at the intersection of Broadway and 4th Avenue Northwest?
I asked the City about this and here’s the response I got from Public Works Director Dan Jonasson:
The reason for the one access point is first and foremost it limits the number of closures that need to be put in place during a flood event. The second reason the opening near Broadway is that it ties into the flow of pedestrian access from the new access that will be built on the new Broadway bridge, it provides an area for a park type attraction or entrance feature to what may become a greenway area along the river.
It’s hard to argue with wanting to limit the number of openings. Each one is a vulnerable spot and will no doubt require operational management and regular maintenance. But Minot’s flood protection plan is going create more work for City staff — that’s a reality we have to face. Should we really be prioritizing the 3-4 hours needed to close off a small pedestrian opening (I called Grand Forks to find out what it takes to close off an opening like this) over removing greenway access for an entire section of town? Forever?
Personally, I’m not a fan of trying to create a park type attraction right next to the busiest road in town, but I do get it. It has the potential to be a dramatic entrance point. But putting a facade for the City over practical access for the citizens? That’s not OK. Access for Northeast Minot is one spot where we should demand our cake and eat it too!
Some Points to Consider:
- If the primary concern is operational time and maintenance, why not make the access point at Broadway an up and over? The west-most flood control structures before the Broadway Bridge are earthen levees. A bit of creative dirt work on either side would give us an access point that doesn’t require maintenance.
- Minot Public School’s new attendance line maps have kids living downtown attending McKinley School. Right now the school is easily accessed by using the Saint Ann Bridge, but that will be changing under the current design.
- No access near 3rd Street means the path under the railroad tracks will be gone. That’s unfortunate because it’s a valuable pedestrian and bike path that connects two parts of town.
- We’re spending a lot of money on developing parking downtown. Wouldn’t an alternative parking solution be to encourage walking and biking? That would require making walking and biking easier, and I’m not sure we’ve accomplished that with this design.
And just in case you’re inclined to label me a complainer, this isn’t the first time this issue has been brought to the attention of project engineers. The audio clip below is from last November’s open house on Phase One. At the 3:30 mark of the recording you’ll hear the exact same concern voiced. What’s the point of these public forums if we’re just ignoring the valid concerns?