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City of Cloquet aims for more inclusive long-range transportation plan

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news Cloquet, 55720

Cloquet Minnesota 122 Avenue C 55720

The last time the city of Cloquet made a transportation plan in 2007, only one kind of transportation was included: the kind with an engine and four or more wheels.

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Thanks to a $30,000 grant, Cloquet gets a do-over.

This time, all kinds of transportation will be considered: including cars and trucks, but also pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, bicyclists, buses and any other form of transport used by residents to get from Point A to Point B.

Cloquet Planning and Zoning Administrator Al Cottingham estimated the process of updating the Transportation Section of the city’s Comprehensive Plan will last close to nine months and “look at the existing conditions, future trends and develop revised goals, objectives, and policies that address the City’s street network and all travel modes.”

The $30,000 Health Impact Assessment (HIA) grant will basically provide an added dimension — the potential health impacts of different ideas — for officials and volunteers to consider, in addition to the usual questions of engineering, cost, efficiency, etc. (The grant was awarded by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota, in partnership with Pew Charitable Trusts.)

Cottingham noted the plans to change the intersection of Highway 33, Big Lake Road and Doddridge Avenue, a notoriously difficult intersection for anyone on foot or bicycle, but an area with many services residents want to access, including a grocery store and restaurants

“It’s not only about walking, but crossing streets: How to make busy intersections more pedestrian friendly. How can we set it up in a way that will get people across safely?” Cottingham said. “The old plan didn’t look at that. It was more about where do we need more streets?”

Also on the list are less tangible things than streets and sidewalks, things like quality of life and the “livability” of the community, explained Meghann Levitt, Statewide Health Improvement Project (SHIP) grant coordinator, who’s been working on issues of active transportation and safe routes to school in Cloquet for more than a year now.

“We want to consider the impact on people’s health [in terms of] traffic safety, air quality, livability, physical activity and more,” Levitt said.

To kick off the redesign of the transportation section of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the city of Cloquet is inviting residents to attend a “community visioning meeting” from  6:30- 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, in room 231 at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. According to a press release, the meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to review the Plan’s transportation goals and identify current assets and barriers that will help to ensure development of a community supported, long-term vision for transportation in Cloquet. The planning process will also incorporate how the Transportation Section impacts health and quality of life in the city.

“Anyone who wants to talk any form of transportation: from auto, to bikes to walking … all aspects, that’s what we’re looking to brainstorm,” Cottingham explained.

Following the visioning meeting, a smaller advisory committee will be working over the next six months with city staff and staff from the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, who are providing planning assistance during the process. Although some members of the committee have already been recruited, Levitt said anyone is welcome to join. The goal is to have a good cross section of residents, including seniors, medical personnel, people who deal with transportation, parents of young children, teenagers and more. All it takes is a willingness to work with the task force and attend an estimated six meetings.

Have questions? For more information on or to discuss the update process, contact Cottingham at 218-655-1517 or by email at acottingham@ci.cloquet.mn.us.

Residents can view the Cloquet Transportation Update project website for information throughout the process  at www.arrowheadplanning.org/cloquetupdate.

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