New concerns rise over Duluth's proposed Park Point area plan

By KBJR News 1

May 15, 2014 Updated May 15, 2014 at 6:20 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Duluth's proposed Park Point small area plan continues to be under scrutiny after city councilors voted to table the issue at their council meeting earlier this week.

The issue here is finding a way to improve traffic flow along the "S" curve on park point.

The latest plan would move the "S" curve on Lake Avenue at 12th street four blocks closer to the Ariel Lift Bridge to accommodate heavier traffic.

However, this proposal would cut across several properties before connecting with Minnesota Avenue, meaning a number of houses and over 70 trees would be ripped out, which isn't sitting well with some park pointers.

"Some neighbors have gotten hostile and not civil, and that's been very disappointing," said Park Point Community Club president, Dawn Buck.

It's a hot-button issue that has many community members worked up...
Another option from the latest Park Point small area plan would create two one-way streets near the bridge.

That proposal is very concerning to the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

They say if traffic were rerouted from Lake Avenue onto Minnesota Avenue on the point, the USACE Vessel Yard would be negatively impacted.

"It'd be impacts to our deliveries to our vessel yard," said Steven Brossart, USACE's area engineer.

The Vessel Yard serves as a mooring location for the Duluth Area Office Floating Plant, which provides repairs to Army Corps of Engineers navigation structures throughout the Great Lakes.

Currently the volume of traffic on Minnesota Avenue is low enough to have minimal impact to the regular delivery of large products and equipment, however, the re-route would likely increase traffic flow in that area creating major safety concerns for vehicles leaving the facility.

"If you have large vehicles trying to get into a tight facility you're going to have to stop traffic so those vehicles can get in there and that's definitely going to interrupt the flow of traffic in that area," said Brossart.

On Park Point there are currently platted public right of ways leading to the water and public dockage, but the proposed plan calls for eliminating the public dockage and creating access points to the beach every four blocks, and vacating the remaining ones.

However, a number of neighbors living on those streets worry the access points would disrupt the neighborhood and increase parking problems.

"Residents were fearful of parking vandalism," said Buck.

Some living in the Park Point community wonder if there are other less permanent options.

"Can we do something seasonally? Can we put up barricades in the summer and move traffic just with barricades to start to test it out?" said Buck.

However the majority of city leaders seem to be behind the plan, saying it would address problems with infrastructure.

City councilor Sharla Gardner says Minnesota Avenue currently is in a state of serious disrepair and that this project would help to change that.

"There's flooding that occurs, there's not good drainage," said councilor Gardner.

The council hopes to find a plan that will alleviate all of those concerns.

The plan will go before the city council again at their meeting on Tuesday, May 27th.

Elsa Robins