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Survey says? Input sought on potential changes to causeway

WORTHINGTON -- The city of Worthington and with the Active Living Plan committee are asking the public to fill out a short survey about possible changes in the usage of the South Shore Drive causeway.

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WORTHINGTON - The city of Worthington and with the Active Living Plan committee are asking the public to fill out a short survey about possible changes in the usage of the South Shore Drive causeway.

  Earlier this year, the Worthington City Council approved several projects as part of Active Living Plan (ALP), which has identified possible changes to certain city areas that have been identified as not pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. City Director of Engineering Dwayne Haffield said the causeway - commonly known as the grade - was a priority for the ALP committee.

  “This is very much a process of trying to see how the public receives these ideas,” Haffield said. “There is no pre-set notion that it must change, but there have been some concerns and issues that have been expressed over and over again about the conflict between pedestrians, bicycles and vehicle traffic.”

  Holly Larson, an outdoor recreation planner with the National Parks Service and part of the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, has been working with the ALP committee for a year, assisting them with several of the potential projects.

  “I don’t tell the committee which it’s the right answer - that's really up to the community to decide,” Larson said. “I have been assisting with the planning process and creating some alternatives to consider.”

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  Larson said the committee wanted to give a wide variety of options from which to choose. Some include drastic changes; others have minimal differences.

  “We wanted to offer the whole range of options, from no change to removing motor vehicles completely and having the causeway just for pedestrians and bicycles,” Larson said. “There are a number of different ways to either mix or divide the bicycles from the pedestrians.”  

  Motorists and cyclists share two 12-foot travel lanes, while pedestrians have to walk on the dirt path next to the road. In addition, there is a 12-foot-wide parking lane on the eastern part of the road that runs about one third of the total length of the causeway, making this portion of the grade 36 feet wide.

  The survey has two multiple-choice questions asking people how they most often use the causeway - whether it’s by car, bike or walking -  and if they consider it safe or not.

  The second part of the survey shows six different possibilities of changes and additions to the causeway. People will choose on a scale from 1 to 10 how much they like or dislike each scenario.

  One option presents no change, leaving the causeway with two lanes of traffic. Another option that would not have a physical impact on the causeway is adding bicycle markings and pedestrian signs.

  The next option on the survey is having a one-way vehicle lane with biking and walking lanes on each side of the road. Another option shows having a painted buffer between a one-way car lane and a lane shared by pedestrians and bicycles.

  “The advantage of having some vehicle traffic open is that there are people who fish off the causeway and they might not be able to necessarily walk from the nearest parking area,” Haffield said. “It does help perpetuate the fishing of the causeway by allowing motor vehicles.”

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  Another option shows two lanes strictly for pedestrians and bicycles with no vehicle to drive access. As proposed by a councilman, Haffield said the last option is having two car lanes and adding a boardwalk next to the road.

  “The boardwalk would be additional infrastructure and there would be a significant expense that goes with that,” he said. “In that case, the vehicles can remain the same and the bicycles and pedestrians be on the boardwalk.”

  He explained that if the this option is chosen, it will be taken to the council to discuss funding for the boardwalk. If one of the other options is chosen, changes could occur as early as next year.

  “The committee is really excited to get to the implementation stage of the ALP and welcomes anyone in the committee who is interested in the crossway to fill out this.   up the survey or to come to the meeting that we are having later in the winter,” Larson said.

  Haffield said the survey will be available to the public throughout the month of December. It can be found at the city of Worthington website in English, Spanish and Karen (a translation of the survey to other languages can be requested to the city). A printed version of the survey can also be picked up at city hall.

  There will be a community meeting scheduled next year to discuss the results of the survey.

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