Bringing people downtown

L to R: Arnie Nelson, Lee Lansing, Scott Davis

At the Jan. 4 monthly issues forum, featuring our new mayor and two new City Council members, I was struck by a question from the audience: “What, if anything, can be done to bring more people downtown?”

Previously, a new council member had said there was no “silver bullet” to “get more feet on the street.” Agreed, we shouldn’t look to a single solution. But since we pride ourselves on our historic downtown, how about taking a step — literally — back in time and work to get people out of their cars and on the sidewalks?

Those of us who live on the West Side would welcome a walk bridge across Highway 3, which is both dangerous and unsightly to cross. We would welcome another traffic light at Third Street. We would also welcome a design speed to the upgraded road that encourages drivers to hold it at 30 mph.

“Put the highway in and see what happens,” said one panelist. “It all takes M-O-N-E-Y,” said another. How many lives are we willing to lose? How much are we willing to spend on lawsuits? How many more dollars are we willing to lose to Target before we recognize that “more parking” is not the sole solution to getting more people downtown?

Let’s help more people walk and shop downtown by helping them cross Highway 3 in a safe and attractive manner. (Think of the artistic bridge that spans Lyndale and Hennepin avenues from Loring Park to the Walker’s sculpture garden.) Expensive initially? Yes. But it will pay off in consumer dollars, in saved lives and in keeping our historic town from looking like just another suburb. Add parking? I’d rather get people out of their cars.

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