Forum Connect

Quick Build Road Improvements

  • 1.  Quick Build Road Improvements

    Posted 03-10-2020 14:41
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    Good Morning-

    We have recently been presented with a quick build project within a historic district listed both locally and on the National Register.  The project was put together to address traffic issues at a 4 way stop in a residential area.  The proposal included plastic bollards with white paint on the asphalt to reduce the width of the roadway and brightly color paint on the asphalt to draw the attention of drivers.  The paint could take any pattern (checks, diamonds, strips, something artistic, etc.) and could have any range of colors (orange, pink, blue, green, etc.).  More of these projects will be taking place all over the city as a way to build community and slow traffic.  I am curious to know how similar projects have been addressed in other historic districts.  How are they reviewed-by the commission, by staff?  Are they discouraged or modified to fit into the district?

    Thank you for your responses.

    Jodie Brown


  • 2.  RE: Quick Build Road Improvements

    Posted 03-13-2020 13:09
    Hi, Jodie. I sit on the Minneapolis HPC and we've seen street reconstruction within our landmark districts, but I don't recall seeing asphalt painting come before the commission. Your question reminded me of this cautionary tale that popped up in my old haunt, Ames, Iowa, where the feds were not so happy with their crosswalk painting. I believe their commercial area is a National Register district, but not locally designated. I'm curious to see how other Forum Connect members respond. I've never been a fan of paint regulation except in extreme circumstances, but think of that more in relation to houses, not the street.


    p.s. These are my own opinions and do not represent those of any organizations for which I volunteer or work, including the City of Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

    Barbara Howard
    Stonebridge Learning, LLC
    Minneapolis MN

  • 3.  RE: Quick Build Road Improvements

    Posted 03-14-2020 09:19

    In my opinion, if improvements within the roadway restore a sense of pedestrian and bicyclist comfort, which was very common pre-WW2 then it's entirely in keeping with a pre-war era historic district. For a post WW2 development, then sidewalks were less common, which would could add a level of complexity to installing pedestrian friendly pathways. We do have one residential historic district in town where the lack of sidewalks is considered a character defining feature. Thankfully WW2 development also came with culdesacs, so that district isn't a major thoroughfare for peds.

    In our downtown historic district, established in 1979, an entire block-length of street was shut down and turned into a pedestrian promenade (in 1982). The Square went through a redesign a few years ago. When we reviewed the proposed changes, our main concern was visibility of the historic structures, that historic artifacts within the scope of the project be preserved (which meant some historic sidewalk on one corner), and that historic district signs be reinstalled if they were removed during construction. 

    We have a large national residential historic district that had a new bikeway installed a few years back. This included changing some parking, installing a roundabout at one intersection, and restriping so that there were bike lanes with buffer space on either side of the bike lane. We reviewed these changes with an eye towards what affect they would have upon intersections in particular. There pedestrian improvements might affect historic shale sidewalks. (Turns out most had been removed decades before.)

    In general, anything that gets people out of their cars and onto the streets by bike or on foot, gets them seeing the historic buildings that before they were just whizzing past. I'm all for such street improvements. Given that we add painted pianos, painted transformer boxes, and painted planters to our historic downtown (and pavers where there used to be dirt roads) and they help to enliven the area and strengthen the public's bond to the area, I think such things are fine. And they're all removable, I would put painted streets in that same category. They can enliven the area. And depending on how many cars are traveling over them, the paint really won't last long.  Even if it's regularly repainted, it's temporary given that streets get repaved or at least chip-sealed fairly regularly. Unless the asphalt (or cement) street is a character defining feature, I'd say bring it! Get people out there walking and biking and appreciating what they were previously just flying past. :-D

    Meg Dunn
    Fort Collins CO

  • 4.  RE: Quick Build Road Improvements

    Posted 03-14-2020 17:07
    I would think the potential for issues could also arise if any features being modified are considered contributing to the district (which it sounds like they are not).  Painting modern asphalt or concreate vs painting cobbled or stone surface or features (e.g. curbs) may require a different answer.  Also, is there any public (state or federal) funds being used on the project?  You may want to check with your SHPO to make sure a 106 review (or similar) is not required.

    Molly Patterson-Lundgren
    City of Rochester MN
    Rochester MN